Do your bones deserve a density screening?

New update!  Federal recommendations provide more detail on when to screen women UNDER age 65 for osteoporosis.   

Osteoporosis is when bones are less dense and therefore, are more likely to break, or fracture. White people are at higher risk of osteoporosis than other ethnic groups, but it occurs in all groups.  Almost half of all postmenopausal women and 1 out of every 5 men older than 65 years will have osteoporosis-related fracture. Fractures can lead to pain, surgery, loss of independence/mobility, and death.

To prevent osteoporosis take adequate calcium (500 mg 3x/day) and vitamin D (1000 IU a day), exercise, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol. Drugs can prevent osteoporosis, but they are not recommended for general prevention because of their side effects and expense. Instead, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)  recommends screening for osteoporosis and prescribing drugs only to people who have documented thin bones. Screening involves measuring bone density using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).

For women OLDER than 65 years the USPSTF recommends osteoporosis screening. (Medicare will currently pay for a DEXA every 2 years).  Approximately 9 out of every 100 white women who are 65 years of age with no risk factors for osteoporosis will have an osteoporotic fracture within 10 years.

Women YOUNGER than 65 years who have a risk for osteoporosis similar to that of a 65-year-old white woman should also be screened. Risk factors for osteoporosis include

  • advanced age,
  • low body weight,
  • and tobacco and alcohol use,
  • as well as having a parent with an osteoporotic fracture.

femur (thigh bone) fracture

There is a great tool to show your 10-year fracture risk.  Input your personal risk factors and the FRAX (Fracture Risk Assessment) tool helps estimate your risk for osteoporosis. The FRAX tool is available at

Lastly, about men. . . the advisory panel concluded that there is not enough information to recommend either for or against osteoporosis screening in men.

Hope this helps.

About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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