Osteoporosis, though most common among women, also affects men and may be associated with alcoholism, a hormone deficiency, or both, says a new report.
The disease, in men and women, can lead to injuries such as hip fractures that cause "big public health costs, (death) and disability," said Dr. C. Conrad Johnston, an endocrinologist at the Indiana University School of Medicine."Traditionally, osteoporosis is considered a disease of women, but it affects men too," said Johnston. "It is a problem that involves older men, and as men live longer, it will become a bigger health problem."
His findings were published in Friday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Murray J. Favus, an endocrinologist and director of the bone program at the University of Chicago, said research suggests that by age 70, one-quarter of the women in North America will have sustained a fracture related to osteoporosis.
Probably fewer than 10 percent of the known cases of osteoporosis are among men, though "I'm sure there is a lot more of it out there than we see," he said Thursday, adding there has not been much research on osteoporosis in men.
Osteoporosis results in a loss of bone density and may be accompanied by increasing porosity and brittleness. Most common in women, it can lead to spinal crush fractures that cause dowager's hump and pain, said Johnston.
"Men have more bone mass than women at maturity, and they do not have the accelerated loss associated with menopause," said Johnson. "So they have two advantages - more bone to start with and not losing as much."
Favus said a lack of estrogen following menopause is the main factor in osteoporosis in women, but with men, often "we don't know the cause."
Johnston said spinal crush fractures are six to seven times more common in women, but hip fractures are only about twice as common.
"The hip fracture is the one that produces the big public health costs, mortality and disability," said Johnston.
He said there seem to be more secondary causes of osteoporosis in men, particularly alcoholism and a lack of the hormone testosterone. Smoking also can increase the risk of osteoporosis, Johnston said.