Some, but not all, antiresorptive agents have been shown to reduce the risk of nonvertebral fractures. Agents that significantly reduced nonvertebral fracture risk also appear to produce larger mean increases in bone mineral density (BMD) and reductions in biochemical markers (BCM) of bone turnover, compared with other agents. To examine the extent to which increases in BMD and reductions in BCM during antiresorptive therapy are associated with reductions in risk of nonvertebral fractures, we performed a meta-analysis of all randomized, placebo-controlled trials of antiresorptive agents conducted in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (i.e. prior vertebral fracture or low BMD) with available relevant data. A total of 18 such trials with usable data were identified, including a total of 2,415 women with incident nonvertebral fractures over 69,369 women-years of follow-up. Poisson regression was used to estimate the association between changes in BMD or BCM during the first year and overall reductions in risk of nonvertebral fractures (vs. the placebo group) across all trials. Larger increases in BMD and larger reductions in BCM were significantly associated with greater reductions in nonvertebral fracture risk. For example, each 1% increase in spine BMD at 1 yr was associated with an 8% reduction in nonvertebral fracture risk (P = 0.02). Mean BMD changes at the hip were smaller than at the spine, but the predicted net effect on fracture risk was the same; an agent that increases spine BMD by 6% at 1 yr reduces nonvertebral fracture risk by about 39%, and an agent that increases hip BMD by 3% at 1 yr reduces nonvertebral fracture risk by about 46%. The results also predict that a 70% reduction in resorption BCM would reduce risk by 40%, and a 50% reduction in formation BCM would reduce risk by 44%. It appears that either BMD or BCM changes are able to explain the effect of treatment, because a separate variable for treatment was not independently significant in any models. These data demonstrate that larger increases in BMD at both the spine and hip and larger reductions in both formation and resorption BCM are associated with greater reductions in the risk of nonvertebral fractures. Antiresorptive agents that do not produce large increases in BMD or large reductions in BCM do not appear to and would not be expected to decrease the risk of nonvertebral fractures.