Men as well as women suffer from osteoporosis (brittle bones). While the condition affects around one in three women, osteoporosis also affects around two million men in Britain.
Around one in 12 men suffer from osteoporosis, which can lead to vertebral deformities, frequent fractures, considerable pain, and in extreme cases death.
Some men in their thirties start developing osteoporosis, although there are certain risk factors such as steroids, alcohol and smoking but for one third of these patients there is no obvious cause. This condition is called Male Idiopathic Osteoporosis (MIO). Identifying the best course of treatment for these relatively young sufferers, and assessing those at risk, is difficult.
Leading medical charity Action Research has found that some men who develop osteoporosis in their thirties or forties have a defect in a ‘receptor’ in their bones. This receptor recognises the hormone oestrogen in the body and regulates what the bones cells do in response to the hormone.
Bones are continuously being broken down and then rebuilt by the body to facilitate growth and repair. These processes were thought to be controlled by the sex hormones - oestrogen in women and testosterone in men. Men however, also synthesise low levels of oestrogen which, from recent research, may be equally important for their bone.
Action Researchers has been searching for answers to why men in their thirties and forties develop osteoporosis. The team found that some of these men had normal levels of oestrogen compared with the control group, so one possible explanation could be in the way that the bone responded to the available oestrogen.
In men with osteoporosis one of the receptor molecules, which enables bone to respond to oestrogen, may be shortened, which would interfere with the action of oestrogen on bone cells.
Simon Moore, Chief Executive of Action Research said: “Osteoporosis affects so many people in this country and can be devastating, so it’s very exciting to find such a promising area of enquiry. This suggests that modifications of oestrogen related drugs could be an effective way of managing the condition in men.”
Leading the Action Research project, Dr Isobel Braidman from the University of Manchester said: “Osteoporosis is little understood in men. There is still a lot of research to be done, but our work to date will help us to focus on developing new therapies for the future.”
Brian Murray is 65 and has had a bad back for twenty years and was diagnosed with osteoporosis ten years ago. He said: “I couldn’t believe it when they told me it was osteoporosis. I thought what am I doing with that?, it’s a women’s thing. I was diagnosed after they took a sample of my thigh bone which confirmed it was osteoporosis and I remember then that there were more men in the ward than women. I am lucky in that I haven’t had any fractures, which lots of people have, although I have lost two inches in height. There is a dull pain in my lower back all of the time but I try not to let it stop me doing anything.”
In young people, the rate of bone formation exceeds the rate at which bone cells are reabsorbed by the body. As we age, this process begins to change with the reabsorption of bone cells by the body becoming greater that the speed at which they are reproduced. Hence the skeleton gradually becomes lighter and weaker. The reason why women are more likely to get osteoporosis is because of the rapid drop in oestrogen levels after the menopause.
For more information or to interview Simon Moore or Dr Braidman please telephone Louise Brown, Press Officer, 01403 327403 (direct line), Vincent House, North Parade, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 2DP or email firstname.lastname@example.org Andy Proctor, Head of Communications 01403 327423 (direct line) or email email@example.com
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