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Int J Circumpolar Health. 2013;72:19596. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v72i0.19596. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Clinical risk factors for osteoporosis are common among elderly people in Nuuk, Greenland.

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  • 1Arctic Health Research Centre, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark. ajakobsen87@hotmail.com



Osteoporosis is a debilitating condition characterized by fractures, pain and premature death. Risk factors for osteoporosis predict the risk of fragility fractures.


To describe the occurrence of risk factors for osteoporosis among populations in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland.


A random sample of women born in 1934-42, 1945-47, 1956, and men born in 1956 were selected from the national civil registry. A questionnaire was sent out in Greenlandic and Danish on risk factors for osteoporosis: family history, smoking habits, alcohol intake, presence of disease, sun exposure, intake of dairy products, age at menopause (women) and number of falls. Additional questions included the frequency of back pain, previous fractures, intake of vitamin D and calcium supplements, use of anti-osteoporotic drugs, steroids and other drugs.


The questionnaire was sent to 317 subjects confirmed to be living at an address in Nuuk and 181 (57.1%) responded. More young women than older women were smokers (60.6% vs. 35.0%; p=0.022) while limited sun exposure was reported by more of the old women (37.2% vs. 5.6%; p=0.003). Family history of osteoporosis was reported by 15.0%, without difference between groups. Alcohol and milk intake did not differ between groups. Premature menopause was reported by 17.9% of the women. Falls within the last year were reported by 42.4% with fewer falls in the oldest age group (21.9% vs. 50.0%; p=0.005). Frequency of fragility fractures increased with age (5.7% vs. 24.3% vs. 30.4%; p=0.02) and the risk of a fragility fracture increased with age (p=0.004; OR, 95% CI: 4.5, 1.6-12.2, reference: below 70 years), when adjusted for smoking, gender and falls. The use of anti-osteoporotic drugs was low (3.4%) while 28.8% took calcium and vitamin D supplements.


Age is a dominating risk factor for fragility fractures in Greenland. The use of anti-osteoporotic drugs is low in Greenland, even if osteoporotic fractures are common in old age.


Greenland Inuit; fragility fractures; old people; osteoporosis; risk factors

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