Background: Osteoporosis is a common problem in postmenopausal period. Recent studies have suggested that endogenous and exogenous androgens may influence the bone mineral density in women. There is limited data about the effect of circulating androgens on bone density in postmenopausal women. Aim: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of circulating androgens of ovarian and adrenal origin on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Materials and methods: This cross-sectional study included 178 postmenopausal women, who had never been treated with hormonal therapy or calciotropic agents. Serum free testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and androstenedione levels and their relationship with bone mass (dual X-ray absorptiometry) were evaluated. Results: Serum free testosterone and DHEAS levels were correlated positively with bone mineral density at lumbar spine and femoral neck (P < 0.001). However, stepwise linear regression analyses revealed a differential effect of androgens on bone density. Serum free testosterone was among the independent predictor of bone density at lumbar spine (trabecular bone), whereas serum DHEAS level was of bone density at femoral neck (cortical bone). Conclusion: This study suggests that endogenous androgens are influential on bone density in postmenopausal women. However, regression analyses revealed a differential effect of androgens on different bone types. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.