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Osteoporos Int. 1997;7(4):344-7.

Differences in hip axis and femoral neck length in premenopausal women of Polynesian, Asian and European origin.

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Department of Medicine, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


There are substantial inter-racial differences in hip fracture incidence. Studies in several different ethnic groups have suggested that differences in the length of the femoral neck may contribute to these. The present study assesses femoral neck and hip axis lengths in three ethnic groups in which it has not been documented previously (Chinese, Indians and Polynesians) and compares these values with those in Europeans. Lengths were measured from dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans of the proximal femur in normal premenopausal women (n = 225). The Polynesian (1.65 m) and European (1.64 m) women were significantly taller than the two Asian groups (mean height in each, 1.58 m). There were also differences in mean body weight, the Polynesians being the heaviest (76 kg) and the Chinese the lightest (53 kg). Femoral neck lengths were (mean +/- SD) Chinese 61.5 +/- 4.4 mm, Indian 61.5 +/- 5.1 mm, Polynesian 68.2 +/- 4.3 mm and Europeans 66.0 +/- 4.8 mm. Hip axis lengths were Chinese 98.0 +/- 5.6 mm, Indian 94.5 +/- 5.2 mm, Polynesian 106.4 +/- 5.3 mm and European 102.3 +/- 5.3 mm. Each of the other groups were significantly different from the Europeans for both variables and, in general, this remained so after height adjustment. These data suggest that shorter femoral necks are common to the major Asian racial groups. However, in contrast to all other ethnic groups studied, Polynesians have longer femoral necks than Europeans and their low incidence of hip fracture is not explicable, therefore, in terms of their femoral neck length. This suggests that either higher bone density or other more subtle differences in proximal femoral geometry must account for the low hip fracture incidence in Polynesians.

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