Osteoporosis Affects Male Smokers Too, Not Merely Female Disease: New Study

Osteoporosis, a bone disease, found mostly in women is likely to affect smoking males too, said a study done on middle-aged to elderly smokers, which may effectively reverse the current US guidelines that do not prescribe osteoporosis screening for men.

The study found that smoking history and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were the two major risk factors for low bone density among both men and women.

“Our findings suggest that current and past smokers of both genders should be screened for osteoporosis,” said Elizabeth Regan, assistant professor at the National Jewish Health in the US, recommending osteoporosis screening to be done for men with a smoking history and starting treatment in those with bone disease to prevent possible vertebrae fractures, improve quality of life and reduce health care costs.


Elderly woman with osteoporosis showing classical dowager’s hump. (Wikipedia, Creative commons)

The study of National Jewish Health included evaluation of 3,321 smokers including those with past smoking history in the age group of 45 to 80 and the results showed that 55% of the male smokers suffer with low bone density and 60% of them with vertebral fractures.

The prevalence of low-bone density increased in conjunction with worsening COPD, rising to 84% among severe COPD patients of both genders, the study showed.

“The growing use of CT scans to screen heavy smokers for lung cancer may provide an opportunity to use the same scans for bone density screening in this high-risk population,” Regan said.

Currently, despite smoking is recognised as a risk factor for osteoporosis, neither smoking history nor COPD have been included in the criteria for bone-density screening in the guidelines issued in the US.

The study has been published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

World Health Organization’s standard for osteoporosis is a bone mineral density of 2.5 standard deviations or more below the mean peak bone mass (average of young, healthy adults) as measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. It is common among women after menopause due to decreased production of estrogen and is referred to as primary type 1.

Primary type 2 osteoporosis is found among elderly people aged 75 and above in both males and females at a ratio of 1:2, which is attributed to increase use of medication called steroid- or glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.

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