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J Bone Miner Res. 2005 Feb;20(2):185-94. Epub 2004 Oct 18.

Osteoporosis and fracture risk in women of different ethnic groups.

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  • 1Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0607, USA.


Osteoporosis and 1-year fracture risk were studied in 197,848 postmenopausal American women from five ethnic groups. Weight explained differences in BMD, except among blacks, who had the highest BMD. One SD decrease in BMD predicted a 50% increased fracture risk in each group. Despite similar relative risks, absolute fracture rates differed.


Most information about osteoporosis comes from studies of white women. This study describes the frequency of osteoporosis and the association between BMD and fracture in women from five ethnic groups.


This study was made up of a cohort of 197,848 community-dwelling postmenopausal women (7784 blacks, 1912 Asians, 6973 Hispanics, and 1708 Native Americans) from the United States, without known osteoporosis or a recent BMD test. Heel, forearm, or finger BMD was measured, and risk factor information was obtained; 82% were followed for 1 year for new fractures. BMD and fracture rates were compared, adjusting for differences in covariates.


By age 80, more than one-fifth of women in each ethnic group had peripheral BMD T scores <-2.5. Black women had the highest BMD; Asian women had the lowest. Only the BMD differences for blacks were not explained by differences in weight. After 1 year, 2414 new fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, wrist, or rib were reported. BMD at each site predicted fractures equally well within each ethnic group. After adjusting for BMD, weight, and other covariates, white and Hispanic women had the highest risk for fracture (relative risk [RR] 1.0 [referent group] and 0.95, 95% CI, 0.76, 1.20, respectively), followed by Native Americans (RR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.57, 1.32), blacks (RR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.38, 0.70), and Asian Americans (RR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.15, 0.66). In age- and weight-adjusted models, each SD decrease in peripheral BMD predicted a 1.54 times increased risk of fracture in each ethnic group (95% CI, 1.48-1.61). Excluding wrist fractures, the most common fracture, did not materially change associations.


Ethnic differences in BMD are strongly influenced by body weight; fracture risk is strongly influenced by BMD in each group. Ethnic differences in absolute fracture risk remain, which may warrant ethnic-specific clinical recommendations.

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