The association between PvuII polymorphisms of the estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) gene and total as well as regional bone mineral density (BMD) in healthy Chinese women (n = 182) was determined by polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP), where P indicated the absence and p the presence of PvuII restriction sites. Subjects with PP genotype had significantly higher BMD at the thoracic spine and ribs (both P < 0.05) when compared with those with Pp and pp genotypes. Although PP genotype had slightly higher BMD values at the lumbar spine L2-L4 region and hip by 8% and 7%, respectively, the results failed to reach statistical significance. After adjusting for age, height, weight, and years since menopause, PP genotype had higher BMD at the left (P < 0.02) and right (P < 0.05) rib region but not at the thoracic spine (P = 0.056). Analyzing the premenopausal subjects alone (n = 64) revealed that subjects with PP genotype had higher adjusted BMD at the right rib region (P < 0.05). When only the postmenopausal women (n = 118) were analyzed, the adjusted BMD of the PP genotype at the thoracic spine was significantly higher (P < 0.05) than the other two groups. In conclusion, estrogen receptor gene has a role in determining bone mass but the clinical impact on its own is probably small.