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Bone. 2003 May;32(5):561-70.

Effects of gender, anthropometric variables, and aging on the evolution of hip strength in men and women aged over 65.

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  • 1Strangeways Research Laboratory, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK. stephen.srl.cam.ac.uk


Although gender differences in fall rates may partly explain the higher prevalence of fractures in elderly women than men, male bones may also be intrinsically stronger or suffer less structural degradation with age than those of women. We used hip structural analysis (HSA) to study gender differences in hip geometry and bone mineral density (BMD) as they evolved over time in elderly white men and women with the aim of identifying candidate biological pathways leading to heightened risk of hip fracture. We recruited 443 women and 439 men aged 67-79 years from a diet and cancer prospective population-based cohort study to a study of hip bone loss. Hip BMD was measured on two occasions 2-5 years apart by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and HSA software used to derive BMD and structural parameters at the narrow neck (NN), the intertrochanter (IT), and the shaft (S) regions. Structural indices calculated in each region were cross-sectional area (CSA)-amount of bone surface area in the cross section after excluding soft tissue space; section modulus (Z)-an index of bending resistance, subperiosteal width, endocortical width, cortical thickness; and cortical buckling ratio (CBR)-a measure of cortical instability. Compared to men, women had lower values of BMD, CSA, Z, subperiosteal width, endocortical width, and cortical thickness in all regions, except S endocortical width, after adjusting for weight, height, and age (P < 0.0001). CBR was higher in women than in men (P < 0.0001) in all regions. Longitudinal analysis of rates of change revealed faster rates of BMD decline in women than in men at the Hologic total hip, Hologic femoral neck, and IT regions (P < 0.029). Women had faster rates of subperiosteal and endosteal expansion than men at the NN (P < 0.011) and IT (P < 0.049) and faster increase in Z at the NN (P = 0.029). At the IT region, cortical thinning was faster in women than in men (P = 0.037) and CBR increased at a faster rate in women (P = 0.011). In conclusion, Z is lower in women than in men and expansion of the proximal femur occurs in both sexes, being faster in women than in men. Z does not decline at the same rate as BMD, implying that part of the effect of aging on BMD is due to expansion of the bony envelope without loss of bone mineral content. Faster expansion in the female femoral neck may in turn lead to greater fragility if wider diameter and thinner cortices become locally unstable.

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