The purpose of this study was to examine whether geographic area or water fluoride were related to the occurrence of fractures among the elderly in the United States. We used a 5% sample of the white U.S. Medicare population, aged 65 to 89 years during the period 1986-1990, to identify fractures of the hip, proximal humerus, distal forearm, and ankle. The association of geographic region and fluoridation status with fracture rates was assessed using Poisson regression. We found that rates of hip fracture were generally lower in the northern regions of the United States and higher in the southern regions. For fractures of the distal forearm and proximal humerus, lower rates were found in the Western states, and higher rates in the East. No discernible geographic pattern was found for ankle fractures. Adjustment for water fluoridation did not influence these results. Independent of geographic effects, men in fluoridated areas had modestly higher rates of fractures of the distal forearm and proximal humerus than did men in nonfluoridated areas; no such differences were observed among women, nor for fractures of the hip or ankle among either men or women. In conclusion, our data suggest that fractures of the distal forearm and proximal humerus have etiologic determinants distinct from those of fractures of the hip or ankle.