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New guidelines for osteoporosis screenings include risk factors for younger women

January 18, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
  • A federal task force has set new guidelines for when to screen women for osteoporosis, particularly for younger women who have high risk factors.
A federal task force has set new guidelines for when to screen women for osteoporosis,… (Los Angeles Times )

Osteoporosis is a disease that often goes undetected in women -- until they break a bone. Now a federal task force recommends osteoporosis screening not just for women 65 and older, as has long been the case, but also for young women who show the same risk factors as a 65-year-old white woman.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force report published in the January issue of Annals of Internal Medicine says white women are used as the benchmark because they appear to be at higher risk for the disease than any other ethnic group. And it explains why early detection matters:

"One half of all postmenopausal women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetime; 25% of these women will develop a vertebral deformity, and 15% will experience a hip fracture. Osteoporotic fractures, particularly hip fractures, are associated with chronic pain and disability, loss of independence, decreased quality of life, and increased mortality."

Women who have osteoporosis can be helped by taking bisphosphonates, parathyroid hormone, raloxifene or estrogen, the report says. Here's the summary and the full report.

And these risk factors for osteoporosis come from the National Institutes of Health:

getting older;
being small and thin;
having a family history of osteoporosis;
taking certain medicines, such as glucocorticoids or some anticonvulsants;
being a white or Asian woman; and having osteopenia, which is low bone mass.

The task force report also says it couldn't make a recommendation for men because of insufficient evidence on the benefits and harms of screenings. Likely more studies on osteoporosis and men would change that.

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