Bone mass accretion during puberty appears to be critical in the development of peak bone mass, which, in turn, is believed to be a major determinant of osteoporosis risk. Although genetics may be the primary determinant of peak bone mass, modifiable secondary factors, such as nutrition and hormone exposure, may significantly affect bone mass accretion during the second decade of life. As part of a longitudinal study of major determinants of bone development during puberty, we obtained cross-sectional measurements from 112 premenarchal caucasian females (mean +/- SD age, 11.9 +/- 0.49 yr at study entry). Total body bone mineral density (TBBMD) and total body bone mineral content (TBBMC) were measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry and compared to anthropometric, pubertal development, urinary steroid and gonadotropin levels, and nutrient intake. An integrated estrogen exposure index was developed and used to evaluate the cumulative effect of circulating estrogen levels on both development. Compared to normative reference data for adults, our subjects possessed 90% of adult height, 68% of adult weight, 83% of adult TBBMD, and 53% of TBBMC. The strongest combined predictors of prepubertal TBBMD and TBBMC were body weight, followed by height and pubertal development. Urinary estradiol levels were positively correlated with dietary intake of iron and vitamin B6.