The objectives of the present study were to estimate long-term risks of osteoporotic fractures. The incidence of hip, distal forearm, proximal humerus and vertebral fracture were obtained from patient records in Malmö, Sweden. Vertebral fractures were confined to those coming to clinical attention, either as an inpatient or an outpatient case. Patient records were examined to exclude individuals with prior fractures at the same site. Future mortality rates were computed for each year of age from Poisson models using the Swedish Patient Register and the Statistical Year Book. The incidence and lifetime risk of any fracture were determined from the proportion of individuals fracture-free from the age of 45 years. Lifetime risk of shoulder, forearm, hip and spine fracture were 13.3%, 21.5%, 23.3% and 15.4% respectively in women at the age of 45 years. Corresponding values for men at the age of 45 years were 4.4%, 5.2%, 11.2% and 8.6%. The risk of any of these fractures was 47.3% and 23.8% in women and men respectively. Remaining lifetime risk was stable with age for hip fracture, but decreased by 20-30% by the age of 70 years in the case of other fractures. Ten and 15 year risks for all types of fractures increased with age until the age of 80 years, when they approached lifetime risks because of the competing probabilities of fracture and death. We conclude that fractures of the hip and spine carry higher risks than fractures at other sites, and that lifetime risks of fracture of the hip in particular have been underestimated.