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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996 Aug;81(8):2948-56.

A prospective study of bone loss in African-American and white women--a clinical research center study.

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  • 1Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


Although bone loss occurs universally with age, the incidence of age-related osteoporotic fractures varies widely among ethnic groups. In the U.S., age-adjusted hip fracture incidence is 50% lower in African-American than in white women. Adult African-American women also have higher bone mass, but it is not known whether this difference is entirely due to higher peak bone mass or also results from slower rates of bone loss. Rates of bone loss were measured prospectively in 122 white and 121 African-American healthy, nonobese, pre- and postmenopausal women. Bone density was measured at 6-month intervals over a mean of 3-4 yr using single and dual photon absorptiometry of the forearm (cortical bone) and spine (trabecular bone). Similar rates of premenopausal bone loss were documented in both white and African-American women. However, in early menopause, bone loss was faster in the white women in the forearm (-2.4%/yr in whites vs. -1.2%/yr in African-Americans; P = 0.045), with a similar trend in the spine (-2.2%/yr in whites vs. -1.3/yr in African-Americans; P = 0.27). In women more than 5 yr postmenopause, the rates of bone loss did not differ by ethnic group. Our results indicate that the higher bone mass in African-American women is largely due to the attainment of a greater peak bone mass by early adulthood. However, slower rates of bone loss in the early postmenopausal period may also contribute to the higher bone density of older African-American women. Although bone loss occurs in both groups, there are ethnic differences in bone loss rates which indicate that data derived from white women cannot be simply extrapolated to nonwhite populations. Ethnic group-specific data on the determinants of bone homeostasis are needed.

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