2006-07-14 / Health & Wellness

Men face risk of osteoporosis

We've all seen the ads targeting older women about the dangers of osteoporosis, a potentially debilitating disease that causes bones to become porous and break easily. Now men need to take note, too.

Though it's much more common in women, osteoporosis can strike men as well, often with similarly debilitating consequences. The illness can cause pain, loss of movement, inability to perform daily chores, and even death.

Recently unveiled research from the University of Pittsburgh shows that rates of hip bone loss increase with age among both white and non-white men, particularly those 75 years or older.

According to the study's leader, Dr. Jane Cauley, osteoporosis in men results in part from declining levels of estrogen. Over time, weakening bones develop the hallmarks of osteoporosis, becoming brittle and fracture-prone.

The study reinforces a basic message, namely that men over the age of 70 should consider a bone density check.

"If bone density is good, you may not need to repeat the test, but if it's low, you may need to retest within a few years and maybe start thinking about treatment," said Cauley.

Osteoporosis can, to a certain extent, be prevented. It can be easily diagnosed and effective treatments are available.

In the new study, rates of hip fracture were especially pronounced among Hispanic men. The reasons were not known.

"The increase may be due to inadequate vitamin D, but really we don't yet know why Hispanic men are more vulnerable," Cauley said.

To reach their conclusions, the Pittsburgh researchers studied 5,995 individuals, reflecting the diversity of the country's male population.

In another study from Tufts University, researchers predicted a 56 percent increase in the incidence of male osteoporotic fractures. And some estimates suggest that by 2025 the number of hip fractures in men, worldwide, will have more than doubled.

Until recently, male-oriented research into the disease lagged far behind that devoted to women. But with more men living longer, and with their rates of osteoporosis climbing as a result, studies of male risk have become more common.

For more information on prevention, early detection and improved treatment of osteoporosis, visit the International Osteoporosis Foundation website at www. osteofound.org.

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