Cytochrome P450c17alpha (CYP17) encodes an enzyme with 17a-hydroxylase and 17,20-lyase activities, which is essential for the normal production of adrenal and gonadal androgens. Because androgens have powerful effects on bone growth and metabolism, we determined whether a single base pair (bp) substitution (T-->C) in the promoter region (-34 bp) of CYP17 is associated with sex hormone levels, stature, and femoral mass and size in 333 white men aged 51-84 years (mean +/- SD; 66+/-7 years). Femoral neck bone mineral content (BMC), cross-sectional area (CSA), and bone mineral density (BMD) were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Genotype frequencies did not deviate from Hardy-Weinberg expectations. Serum bioavailable testosterone levels were 20% or 0.5 SDs higher in men with the C/C compared with the T/T genotype, whereas heterozygous men had intermediate hormone levels (p = 0.019). Men with the C/C genotype also were nearly 3 cm taller and had 0.6 SD greater femoral neck CSA than men with the T/T genotype (p < or = 0.01 for both). The association with CSA persisted after adjusting for age, height, and body weight. In contrast, CYP17 genotype was not associated with femoral neck BMC, areal BMD (g/cm2), or estimated volumetric BMD (g/cm3). These results suggest that allelic variation at the CYP17 locus may contribute to the genetic influence on stature and femoral size in men.