Inhaled corticosteroids are recommended as first-line therapy in patients with moderate to severe asthma. The use of these agents in the milder form of asthma is controversial because of their potential adverse effects, especially in growing children. We investigated 49 asthmatic children (38 treated with beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP) at a daily dose of 276+/-125 microg/day and 11 treated with cromolyn sodium (CS) at a daily dose of 30+/-10 mg/day) for 7.4 months, with bone-mass measurements at baseline and after the treatment period. Evaluation of changes in cortical and trabecular bone mass (bone mineral density [BMD]; m/cm2) was performed by absorptiometry at the proximal forearm and at the lumbar spine, respectively. Furthermore, to correct for bone size changes due to growth, we calculated volumetric BMD (VOL-BMD; mg/cm3). At the end of the treatment period, the children who had received regular inhaled BDP had grown as well as children treated with CS, from 120+/-1.4 to 123+/-1.3 cm and from 118+/-3.2 to 120.3+/-2.8 cm, respectively. No children showed deviation from their percentile level of growth. Trabecular and cortical BMD increased after 7 months of follow-up in both groups to the same extent. When BMD was adjusted for body size (VOL-BMD; mg/cm3), bone mass was found not to have changed after BDP or CS treatment course within and between the two groups.