Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Osteoporosis Health Center

Font Size

Estrogen Increases Bone Mass in Women Over 75

WebMD Health News

Aug. 14, 2001 -- Use of estrogen to increase bone mass -- and thereby prevent bone loss and fractures associated with osteoporosis -- is an established approach in at-risk women in the period immediately after menopause.

But what about using the hormone in older women?

A small study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that frail women over 75, like their younger postmenopausal counterparts, also experience an increase in bone mass, and therefore probably a lower risk of osteoporosis, when treated with estrogen.

Because that age group is at the highest risk for falls and fractures, estrogen replacement therapy may be a valuable treatment, says author Dennis T. Villareal, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics and gerontology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"Estrogen is beneficial to the skeletons of very frail elderly women, which corroborates what we know about younger postmenopausal women," Villareal tells WebMD.

But at least one osteoporosis expert argues vigorously against that recommendation, saying that increasing bone mass is of little value if it doesn't prevent fractures. And there is no evidence -- in the JAMA study or anywhere else -- that estrogen prevents fractures, says Felicia Cosman, MD.

The big question, according to Cosman, is not whether bones thicken, but "does it confer a clear protection against fractures? That's where we have a question in all populations, particular the older population."

She is clinical director of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, and an endocrinologist at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, N.Y.

In the study, 67 frail women 75 years or older received either estrogen or a placebo for nine months. Women were considered "frail" if they had low endurance, difficulty completing everyday activities, and poor physical functioning.

The women who took estrogen had significantly larger increases in bone mass in the spine and hip than did women who used the placebo. They also had decreased levels of indicators in the blood and urine associated with bone loss, according to the study.

Villareal says it is the first study of its kind to look at estrogen replacement therapy for women over 75. The prevailing wisdom has been that the rate of bone loss decreases in very old women, and that the ability of estrogen to increase bone mass diminishes with increasing age, he says.

Today on WebMD

Women working out and walking with weights
Reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles.
Chinese cabbage
Calcium-rich foods to add to your diet.
woman stretching
Get the facts on osteoporosis.
Porous bone
Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
senior woman
Woman holding plate of brocolli
wrist xray
Superfood for Bones
mature woman
sunlight in hands
man and woman in front of xray
woman with dumbbells