To test the hypothesis that the reduction in gonadal function can lead to bone mass loss, a group of 12 men who had undergone bilateral orchidectomy at the age of 28.2 +/- 6.8 yr was evaluated. A progressive loss of the lumbar bone density was observed as a function of time after orchidectomy. Both the biochemical indices of bone resorption (urinary hydroxyproline/creatinine ratio and plasma tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase) and bone formation (serum osteocalcin and bone isoenzyme of alkaline phosphatase) were significantly increased in the patients compared with healthy controls. A positive correlation was found between urinary hydroxyproline excretion and percent change in spinal bone mineral density per yr. Because of this increase in the biochemically indicated bone resorption, nine of the patients were studied again after 1-3 yr and were thereafter treated with intranasal calcitonin. Urinary hydroxyproline excretion normalized after 3 months of treatment, and a significant decrease, but not to normal levels, was also observed in the mean values for the other biochemical indices of bone remodeling. Thus, testosterone deficiency, like estrogen deficiency, is associated with accelerated bone loss. The increase in osteoresorption was partially corrected by calcitonin treatment.