Men and Osteoporosis: New Screening Guidelines Released

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Since osteoporosis primarily affects women, men at risk are often overlooked. Thus, male osteoporosis tends to be diagnosed later and at a more advanced stage, when treatment is more challenging. New osteoporosis screening guidelines for men, recently released by the Endocrine Society, may help change that.

    When you think of the typical person diagnosed with osteoporosis, you think of an older woman, right?

    Someone thin and frail, a bit stooped, perhaps with a walker. While that may be the mental image most of us conjure up when it comes to osteoporosis, it’s far from the complete picture.

    Teens can have osteoporosis. As can 35-year-old women in top athletic shape.

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    As can men, from college football players to Senior Games participants.

    While about 80% of those diagnosed with osteoporosis are women, that’s still 20% who are men – a significant number. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 2 million American men have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, with about 12 million more at risk.

    And those numbers will only continue to grow, as the Boomers head into their 60s and 70s over the coming 10 years.

    Now, the national Endocrine Society has issued a new set of clinical guidelines aimed at increasing men’s awareness of osteoporosis, and informing them how to take charge of their bone health sooner, rather than later.

    The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government-appointed panel of physicians and epidemiologists charged with creating clinical preventive services guidelines, has long recommended osteoporosis screening for women 65 and older. But the panel says “the evidence is insufficient to promote screening for men.” (Phend, 2012)

    The Endocrine Society, an international medical organization and leader in the field of endocrinology and metabolism, has chosen to disagree with the USPSTF. The Society issued osteoporosis screening guidelines for men in the June 2012 issue of its Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

    These guidelines recommend baseline screening for men starting at age 60, with follow-up screening as necessary – depending on screening results, and the man’s overall health and lifestyle.

    In addition, the new guidelines recommend screening for men ages 50-69 with the following risk factors: (Phend, 2012)

    •A history of fracture after age 50
    •Low body weight
    •Delayed puberty
    •A history of thyroid issues
    •COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    •Alcohol abuse and/or smoking
    •Extremely low testosterone levels (hypogonadism)
    •Use of certain cortisone-based steroids

    New guidelines for screening recommend a DEXA scan, with a particular focus on spine and hip. In addition, the Society recommends men at possible risk lower their chance of being diagnosed with osteoporosis by doing the following:

    •Ensuring calcium and vitamin D levels are within normal range;
    •Exercising 30 to 40 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week, with a focus on weight-bearing exercise
    •Quitting smoking, if a smoker; and limiting alcohol intake to 3 or fewer drinks per day.

  • Finally, the Society’s guidelines recommend that men determined to be at high risk for fracture  be treated with a bisphosphonate or similar drug to slow bone loss, with follow-up screening every 1 to 2 years, to assess how treatment is working.

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    Are you a man worried about osteoporosis – or a woman with a certain man in mind? Do any of the risk factors listed above describe you? Then speak to your doctor about having a DEXA scan. After all, osteoporosis doesn’t just happen to little old ladies; it’s a possibility for all of us.


    Phend, C. (2012, June 20). Group backs bone screening for men. Retrieved from

    What men need to know - the man's guide to osteoporosis. (2011). Retrieved from

Published On: August 23, 2012