In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we have studied the effects of intranasal salmon calcitonin (SCT) on bone mineral density (BMD) and biochemical markers of bone turnover over a period of 2 years. Our study comprised 117 Caucasian postmenopausal women, otherwise healthy apart from reduced bone density. They received either intranasal synthetic SCT (200 IU either three times weekly or daily) or placebo. Compared with placebo, daily intranasal calcitonin resulted in no significant bone loss in the lumbar spine, as assessed by dual photon absorptiometry, over the 2-year study period (P < 0.02). In this group, women more than 5 years postmenopause, with the lowest baseline bone mass, showed the greatest response to this treatment, with a total increase placebo in lumbar spine BMD of 3.1%. Significant spinal bone loss (P < 0.005) occurred in women receiving either placebo or thrice-weekly calcitonin. Although the rates of bone loss in the proximal femur were not significantly different in the three groups, there were differences over time. Whereas bone loss in the daily calcitonin group was insignificant, women who received placebo or thrice-weekly calcitonin experienced significant bone loss (P < 0. 001). No significant changes in biochemical markers were observed in any group. Therapy was well tolerated and there were no significant treatment-related adverse events. We conclude that intranasal SCT 200 IU daily is effective and safe for the prevention of bone loss in postmenopausal women with reduced bone mass.