Chronic steroid use results in osteoporosis, and postmenopausal women are believed to be at a high risk for steroid-induced bone loss. The purpose of this study was to determine predictors of bone mineral density (BMD) in postmenopausal women on both chronic steroid and hormone replacement therapy. Seventy-six postmenopausal women (> or = 3 years postmenopausal, > or = 2 years of steroid treatment of > or = 5 mg/day of prednisone, and > or 1 year of hormone replacement therapy) were recruited into this study. Measurements of BMD of the lumbar spine and femoral neck were obtained in all subjects. Risk factors for osteoporosis were obtained by questionnaire. Discriminant analysis was performed to determine predictors of BMD. Osteoporosis, defined by a T score of < -2.5, was present in the lumbar spine or femoral neck in 34 of the 76 subjects. Based on these criteria, women with osteoporosis were significantly older, were more years postmenopausal, and had a lower body mass index (BMI) than women who did not have osteoporosis. Predictors of osteoporosis for both the femoral neck and spine included a low BMI (P < 0.05), more years postmenopausal (P < 0.01), and more years on steroids (P < 0.01). Low BMI was the only significant predictor of osteoporosis in the lumbar spine (P < 0.05), whereas for the femoral neck both years on steroids (P < 0.05) and BMI (P < 0.05) were significant predictors of low BMD. In summary, not all postmenopausal women on chronic steroid and hormone replacement therapy are osteoporotic but a low BMI, more years on steroids, and more years postmenopausal were significant predictors of osteoporosis in these subjects.