Skeletal morbidity is a major problem in multiple myeloma. Histomorphometric studies have demonstrated that increased bone resorption can be present even in the absence of radiographic abnormalities. To overcome diagnostic problems in estimating the activity of bone resorption, new laboratory parameters that reflect bone metabolism accurately are urgently needed. We analyzed three parameters of osteoclastic bone destruction, i.e. deoxypyridinoline (Dpd) and amino-terminal collagen type-I telopeptide (NTx) in urine and carboxy-terminal telopeptide of type-I collagen (ICTP) in serum, of 75 patients with multiple myeloma (n = 57) or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS, n = 18) by ELISA/RIA techniques. Serum ICTP and urinary Dpd levels increased parallel to the stage of the disease and differed significantly (P < 0.001 for ICTP and P = 0.03 for Dpd) between MGUS, myeloma stage I, and myeloma in stages II and III according to Salmon and Durie. ICTP and Dpd were significantly elevated in patients with multiple myeloma in stage I compared to individuals with MGUS, while no significant difference was found for NTx. In this first study comparing the prognostic relevance of ICTP, NTx, and Dpd in multiple myeloma patients, ICTP was found to be a prognostic factor for overall survival in the Kaplan-Meier analysis (log-rank test: P < 0.03). Urinary NTx showed borderline significance (P = 0.05), and Dpd had no prognostic value in the survival analysis. Our data show that serum ICTP and urinary Dpd levels increase in parallel to advanced disease stages, and gives the first report on a significant difference in the bone resorption parameters ICTP and Dpd between individuals with MGUS and patients with myeloma in stage I. Among the bone resorption parameters studied serum ICTP was found to be the best prognostic factor for survival in multiple myeloma.