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Bone. 1998 Mar;22(3):241-50.

Effect of estrogen suppression on the mineralization density of iliac crest biopsies in young women as assessed by backscattered electron imaging.

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Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London, UK.


The effects of estrogen suppression on bone mineralization in young women were studied by quantitative backscattered electron (BSE) imaging of transiliac biopsies taken before and after treatment for endometriosis. Treatment (6 months) was with analogs of gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) given either alone (six paired biopsies), which resulted in a marked reduction in the levels of circulating estrogen, or in conjunction with tibolone, a synthetic steroid with estrogenic, progestrogenic, and androgenic properties (four paired biopsies). Estrogen withdrawal increased (p < 0.01) and concomitant tibolone treatment decreased (p < 0.05) the overall mean bone density. Estrogen withdrawal increased the fraction of bone with a high mineralization density [pretreatment: 0.236+/-0.007; GnRH: 0.279+/-0.009, mean +/- standard error of the mean (SEM); p < 0.01]. The concomitant addition of tibolone reversed these effects and increased the proportion of bone with a low mineralization density (pretreatment: 0.198 +/- 0.005; tibolone: 0.230 +/-0.008, p < 0.01). Using previously published data, the mean bone density was inversely correlated with mean wall thickness in cancellous bone (p = 0.030) and with the percentage of active osteons (p = 0.023) in cortical bone. Although treatment had similar effects on the mean bone mineralization density of cortical and cancellous bone, there were different distributions of mineralization between the two sites, with cancellous bone having more skewed and kurtotic distributions both before and after estrogen withdrawal. This study indicates that a short-term estrogen suppression results in the accumulation of bone with a higher mineralization density. As bone with a high mineral content has a decreased impact resistance, this might increase fracture risk. Understanding the cellular and biochemical mechanisms responsible for the local distribution of bone mineral when estrogen is withdrawn may allow the development of new strategies for maintaining bone quality after menopause.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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