The aim of this study was to evaluate risk factors for low bone mineral density (BMD) and vertebral fractures, in juvenile systemic lupus (JSLE). Thirty-one consecutive patients with JSLE were compared with 31 gender- and age-matched healthy controls. BMD and body composition from all participants were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Vertebral fractures were defined as a reduction of > or = 20% of the vertebral height for all patients. Lumbar spine and total femur BMD was significantly decreased in patients compared with controls (P = 0.021 and P = 0.023, respectively). A high frequency of vertebral fractures (22.58%) was found in patients with JSLE. Analysis of body composition revealed lower lean mass (P = 0.033) and higher fat mass percentage (P = 0.003) in patients than in controls. Interestingly, multiple linear regression using BMD as a dependent variable showed a significant association with lean mass in lumbar spine (R2 = 0.262; P = 0.004) and total femur (R2 = 0.419, P = 0.0001), whereas no association was observed with menarche age, SLE Disease Activity Index, Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology, and glucocorticoid. This study indicates that low BMD and vertebral fractures are common in JSLE, and the former is associated with low lean mass, suggesting that muscle rehabilitation may be an additional target for bone therapeutic approach.