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New Treatments for Growing Scourge of Brittle Bones

Jennifer Fisher Wilson
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Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.


Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(2):153-156. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-140-2-200401200-00037
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Patients and physicians do not usually view brittle and broken bones as a health concern as important as breast cancer or heart disease, but they should. Osteoporosis, which causes weak bones in adults, is a subtle, dangerous disease. One in 3 women and 1 in 9 men older than 80 years of age will have a hip fracture as a result of osteoporosis, and 15% to 30% will die of complications related to the fracture. For women, the lifetime risk for dying of hip fracture is the same as the risk of dying of breast cancer, and men older than 50 are at greater risk for osteoporosis-related fracture than they are for prostate cancer, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Vertebral fractures, which are commonly associated with osteoporosis, are also associated with increased mortality. Broken bones wreak havoc in less critical ways—1 study linked osteoporosis-related disability to more inactive days in bed than stroke, myocardial infarction, breast cancer, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (1). The World Health Organization identified osteoporosis as second only to cardiovascular disease as a leading health care problem.

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