Growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-I have major effects on growth plate chondrocytes and all bone cells. Untreated childhood-onset GH deficiency (GHD) markedly impairs linear growth as well as three-dimensional bone size. Adult peak bone mass is therefore about 50% that of adults with normal height. This is mainly an effect on bone volume, whereas true bone mineral density (BMD; g/cm(3)) is virtually normal, as demonstrated in a large cohort of untreated Russian adults with childhood-onset GHD. The prevalence of fractures in these untreated childhood-onset GHD adults was, however, markedly and significantly increased in comparison with normal Russian adults. This clearly indicates that bone mass and bone size matter more than true bone density. Adequate treatment with GH can largely correct bone size and in several studies also bone mass, but it usually requires more than 5 years of continuous treatment. Adult-onset GHD decreases bone turnover and results in a mild deficit, generally between -0.5 and -1.0 z-score, in bone mineral content and BMD of the lumbar spine, radius and femoral neck. Cross-sectional surveys and the KIMS data suggest an increased incidence of fractures. GH replacement therapy increases bone turnover. The three controlled studies with follow-up periods of 18 and 24 months demonstrated a modest increase in BMD of the lumbar spine and femoral neck in male adults with adult-onset GHD, whereas no significant changes in BMD were observed in women. GHD, whether childhood- or adult-onset, impairs bone mass and strength. Appropriate substitution therapy can largely correct these deficiencies if given over a prolonged period. GH therapy for other bone disorders not associated with primary GHD needs further study but may well be beneficial because of its positive effects on the bone remodelling cycle.