The long-term effect of intermittent low-dose nasal salmon calcitonin on trabecular early postmenopausal bone loss was assessed as follow-up to a previously published study. Randomized controlled group comparison was made of 287 healthy women with 6-36 months of natural menopause and no treatment interfering with calcium metabolism at an outpatient clinic for research in bone and cartilage metabolism. The 287 women were randomly allocated to 3 years of treatment with either 500 mg/day, 5 days/week of calcium or the same amount of calcium plus 50 IU/day, 5 days per week of nasal salmon calcitonin. A total of 186 women complied with the study protocol throughout. The main outcome measures were bone mineral density of the lumbar spine (DPA) and biochemical parameters reflecting bone turnover (serum alkaline phosphatases, urinary calcium/creatinine, and hydroxyproline/creatinine ratio). The average changes in bone mineral density after 36 months showed a positive (p < 0.05) outcome (1.8 +/- 5.7%; mean +/- SD) in the group treated with salmon calcitonin and calcium and a significant (p < 0.01) loss (-5.8 +/- 4.8%) in patients receiving calcium alone. The difference between the evolution of the two groups was significantly (p < 0.01) different after 6 months of treatment and remained so until the end of the study. No significant changes were recorded in biochemical parameters reflecting bone turnover. As previously shown during a 1 year follow-up, nasal salmon calcitonin given at low dose and intermittently, in association with calcium, can counteract trabecular postmenopausal bone loss.