Several lines of evidence implicate estrogen deficiency as a cause of bone loss in elderly men. Thus, in 50 elderly men (mean age ± SD, 69.1 ± 6.0 years), we performed a randomized blinded study to assess the effect of 6 months of treatment with 60 mg/day of raloxifene (a selective estrogen receptor modulator [SERM] that has an agonist effect on bone but is not feminizing) versus placebo on bone turnover markers. The mean changes in bone turnover markers, serum sex steroid, or lipid levels with treatment did not differ between groups. However, changes in urinary cross-linked N-telopeptide of type I collagen (NTX) excretion were related directly to the baseline serum estradiol level in the raloxifene (r = 0.57; p = 0.004) but not in the placebo-treated (r = 0.15; p = 0.485) men (p = 0.015 for the difference between groups). Moreover, the men in whom NTX excretion decreased after raloxifene treatment had significantly lower baseline estradiol levels (mean ± SEM, 22 ± 2 pg/ml) than the men in whom urinary NTX excretion didn't change or increased after raloxifene therapy (30± 3 pg/ml; p = 0.03), and no such difference was found in the placebo group. Thus, raloxifene has no significant effect on bone turnover markers or lipid levels in elderly men. However, the association noted between baseline estradiol levels and the change in urine NTX excretion in the raloxifene-treated men suggests that a subset of men with low estradiol levels may respond to raloxifene or other SERMs, and further studies are needed to directly test this possibility.