The effect of spinal degenerative changes and aortic calcification on bone mineral density measurements was studied in 115 healthy early post-menopausal women. Lateral lumbar spine radiographs and quantitative computer tomography images were used to determine the presence and severity of aortic calcification and degenerative changes in the lumbar spine. Women with spinal degenerative calcification had higher spine bone density when measured by dual photon absorptiometry compared to those without calcification (P < 0.01), but this was not reflected by the quantitative computer tomography or the proximal femur bone densities, suggesting that spinal calcification artefactually increases spinal bone density when measured by dual photon techniques. Women with aortic calcification had significantly lower quantitative computer tomography and proximal femur bone density compared to those without calcification (both P < 0.05). These women may be at increased risk for both osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, suggesting a common aetiological factor such as oestrogen deficiency.