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J Bone Miner Res. 2008 Jan;23(1):75-85.

Risk factors for vertebral and nonvertebral fracture over 10 years: a population-based study in women.

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  • 1University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom.


Risk factors may vary for different types of fracture, in particular for vertebral fractures. We followed 367 women >50 yr of age from a population-based cohort for up to 10 yr. Factors that predicted vertebral rather than nonvertebral fractures related to physical weakness, poor health, and weight loss. Similar factors were also associated with greater bone loss at the hip.


Many risk factors predict fractures overall, but it is less clear whether certain factors relate to vertebral fractures in particular. The aim of this study was to compare the risk factors for vertebral and nonvertebral fractures.


We carried out a 10-yr prospective population-based study of 375 women who were 50-85 yr of age initially. At baseline, we measured BMD, blood and urine biochemistry, and anthropometric measurements. Medical and lifestyle data were obtained by questionnaire. Incident vertebral fractures were determined for 311 subjects from spinal radiographs at 0, 2, 5, 7, and 10 yr using an algorithm-based qualitative method, and nonvertebral fractures were confirmed radiographically. Relative risks were calculated by Cox regression analysis.


During follow-up, 70 subjects sustained one or more nonvertebral fractures and 29 sustained one or more vertebral fractures. Risk factors that predicted both types of fracture included increasing age, decreasing BMD at all sites, prevalent vertebral fracture, and shorter estrogen exposure. For nonvertebral fractures only, the risk factors included low urinary creatinine and less frequent use of stairs. The factors for vertebral fractures included lighter weight, reduced body fat, heavy smoking, lower serum calcium, albumin, and thyroid T(3), weak grip strength, and poor physical capability. In a multivariate model, weight, fat mass, serum calcium and T(3), prevalent vertebral fracture, and physical capability remained significant. Furthermore, grip strength, serum albumin, weight loss, and physical capability were associated with rate of bone loss at the femoral neck, and a fast rate of bone loss was also associated with vertebral fractures.


We conclude that overall frailty, which may consist of general poor health, small or thin body size, and lack of strength and physical capability, predicts vertebral fractures but is not a significant predictor of nonvertebral fractures. Bone loss rates are associated with similar risk factors and also with the incidence of vertebral fractures.

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