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Bone. 1996 Nov;19(5):535-9.

The effects of long-term hormone replacement therapy on bone remodeling in postmenopausal women.

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Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge Clinical School, UK.


Hormone replacement therapy prevents menopausal bone loss and reduces the risk of fragility fracture, but its effects on bone remodeling have not been clearly established. We studied the effects of long-term hormone replacement therapy on bone turnover and remodeling balance in 22 postmenopausal women with osteopenia or osteoporosis. Iliac crest biopsies were obtained before and after treatment (mean 23.5 months) after double tetracycline labeling and subjected to histomorphometric analysis. Post-treatment biopsies showed a significant reduction in bone formation rate at tissue level and activation frequency (p = 0.002 and 0.01, respectively). There was also a reduction in mineral appositional rate (p = 0.0002) and osteoid seam width (p = 0.01), but no significant change in mineralization lag time or osteoid maturation period. Wall width showed a significant decrease after treatment (p = 0.03) and there was a consistent trend toward a reduction in resorption cavity dimensions with a statistically significant decrease in the resorption cavity length (p = 0.03). These results confirm the previously reported reduction in bone turnover in postmenopausal women treated with hormone replacement therapy. Post-treatment biopsies also showed a reduction in resorption cavity size and a decrease in wall width, the latter possibly reflecting a compensatory change in response to the reduction in erosion depth. Our data do not provide any evidence that conventional hormone replacement therapy has anabolic effects at the level of the bone remodeling unit and indicate that its beneficial skeletal effects result from suppression of bone turnover and a reduction in the size of resorption cavities.

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