As men age, their serum testosterone concentrations decrease, as do their bone densities. Because bone density is also low in hypogonadal men, we hypothesized that increasing the serum testosterone concentrations of men over 65 yr to those found in young men would increase their bone densities. We randomized 108 men over 65 yr of age to wear either a testosterone patch or a placebo patch double blindly for 36 months. We measured bone mineral density by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry before and during treatment. Ninety-six men completed the entire 36-month protocol. The mean serum testosterone concentration in the men treated with testosterone increased from 367 +/- 79 ng/dL (+/-SD; 12.7 +/- 2.7 nmol/L) before treatment to 625 +/- 249 ng/dL (21.7 +/- 8.6 nmol/L; P < 0.001) at 6 months of treatment and remained at that level for the duration of the study. The mean bone mineral density of the lumbar spine increased (P < 0.001) in both the placebo-treated (2.5 +/- 0.6%) and testosterone-treated (4.2 +/- 0.8%) groups, but the mean changes did not differ between the groups. Linear regression analysis, however, demonstrated that the lower the pretreatment serum testosterone concentration, the greater the effect of testosterone treatment on lumbar spine bone density from 0-36 months (P = 0.02). This analysis showed a minimal effect (0.9 +/- 1.0%) of testosterone treatment on bone mineral density for a pretreatment serum testosterone concentration of 400 ng/dL (13.9 nmol/L), but an increase of 5.9 +/- 2.2% for a pretreatment testosterone concentration of 200 ng/dL (6.9 nmol/L). Increasing the serum testosterone concentrations of normal men over 65 yr of age to the midnormal range for young men did not increase lumbar spine bone density overall, but did increase it in those men with low pretreatment serum testosterone concentrations.