Bone mineral density (BMD) was measured in 353 healthy white women using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Measurements were made of both the posterior-anterior (PA) and lateral spine, as well as the proximal femur (neck and Ward's triangle). From age 50 to 80 years, the BMD of the PA spine and femur neck BMD had an 18% diminution (0.6%/year), and BMD of the lateral spine showed about a 35-40% decline (1.4%/year). The Ward's triangle region of the femur was not quite as decreased (30% or 1.1%/year). The BMD decrease associated with aging did not differ as much among sites when expressed relative to the intrapopulation variation rather than as a percentage. The Z-score for PA spine and femur neck BMD (-1.1) was significantly different than that for lateral spine BMD (-1.6); Ward's triangle was intermediate (-1.3), i.e., the lateral spine still showed the highest sensitivity to aging. However, the ability to detect age changes in an individual subject can be increased only if the precision error for lateral spine BMD is not increased to a greater extent than the sensitivity.