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Bone Density at Age 67 May Predict Later Bone Health

Women With Normal Bone Density at 67 May Not Need Repeat Test for 15 Years, Researchers Say

Bone Density Testing: Perspectives

The study provides valuable information to doctors and patients, says Robert A. Adler, MD, chief of endocrinology at the McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center. He is also professor of internal medicine and epidemiology and community health at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond. "Doctors haven't really known how soon to re-measure bone density."

He reviewed the study results for WebMD.

The findings suggest that ''those women who have this very mild version [of osteopenia], just under normal bone, probably don't need another bone density test for 15 years," says Adler, not speaking on behalf of the Veterans Administration.

The study findings may help women with normal or near-normal bone density stress less. "It will keep some people from obsessing over their bones if they have just mild osteopenia," he says.

The findings suggest doctors should focus on patients with severe osteopenia, he says. The study only included women, Adler points out. The condition is more common in women, but can also affect men. Adler reports receiving research funds to his institution from Novartis, Merck, Genentech, Amgen, and Eli Lilly, all makers of osteoporosis drugs.

Cosman has misgivings about the new research. ''This study is only a few thousand, and there are some inherent biases in the way the study was done,"  says Cosman,  a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, and an osteoporosis specialist at Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, N.Y. One example, she says, is excluding those with a history of fractures.

She does agree that women with severe osteopenia should get re-tested in a year, as Gourlay suggests. However, Cosman says the other intervals are too long. Women with moderate osteopenia, she says, should be re-tested in two years, not five.

Those with normal or nearly normal density should consider another test in five years, she says, not 15.

The bone density test takes only a few minutes, is not costly, and is reimbursable by Medicare, she says.

Cosman reports consultant and advisory board work for Novartis, Eli Lilly, Amgen, and Merck.

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