Menopause leads to rapid bone loss, mainly as a result of estrogen deficiency superimposed on the age-related linear bone loss. The influence of age at menopause on bone loss is unclear, although early menopause is widely considered a risk factor for osteoporosis. Vertebral bone mineral density (BMD) was measured in 1667 women divided into five groups according to hormonal status and age at menopause. Menopausal status was an independent predictor of BMD in a multiregression analysis, along with current age, years since menopause (YSM), weight, and height. For the same chronologic age (55 years), women with early menopause had a 15% lower BMD and a higher YSM than women whose menopause occurred later ("normal" menopause). After adjusting for the interval since menopause, postmenopausal women with early menopause were found to have lower vertebral BMD than postmenopausal women with normal menopause. Finally, after the age of 60, 66% of the women with early menopause had a BMD that was below the fracture threshold compared to 18% of the women with normal menopause. The results of this cross-sectional study suggest that early menopause is associated with a quantitatively higher bone loss than in women with menopause of later onset and thus constitutes a risk factor for osteoporosis.