Shari Tyson, BSc, MSc
Contrary to popular belief, osteoporosis (OP) is not just an aging woman's ailment. About 8% of men can also expect to develop this disease. In fact, hip fractures in elderly men account for approximately one third of all hip fractures sustained due to OP. In addition, one third of those who have suffered such a fracture will not survive beyond a year. Yet despite the large numbers of men affected, and the millions of health care dollars allocated to the care of individuals with this disease, osteoporosis in men remains under-diagnosed, infrequently reported, and inadequately studied.
OP affects women to a greater extent than men. However, for several key reasons, men develop this disease at a much later age than women. For the first thirty years of life, the rate of bone formation exceeds the rate of resorption resulting in general bone growth and thickening. After peaking at age 30 for both sexes, the opposite is true; there is an increased rate of bone resorption and a general loss of bone mass. This rate is further accelerated in women when a dramatic decrease in estrogen production occurs at menopause.
Both estrogen and testosterone have been shown to play key roles in preventing the resorption process. The exact manner in which testosterone performs this function has yet to be discerned.