Physician suggestions wanted for new osteoporosis screening guidelines

A federal task force is looking at including more people among those who should be examined routinely.

By Tanya Albert Henry — Posted July 22, 2010

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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is considering whether to broaden the group of women it recommends to get routine screening for osteoporosis, and it wants physician input.

The proposed recommendations suggest that younger women who have fracture risks equal to or greater than 65-year-old women should be screened for the disease. Currently the task force, an independent panel of nonfederal medical experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, says women 65 and older, and those 60 or older at higher risk for fractures, should be tested. The guidelines were updated last in 2002.

"That is a significant change. We found women as young as age 50 where screening would be appropriate," said Ned Calonge, MD, MPH, task force chair, and the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment's chief medical officer.

Physicians and others can comment on the draft recommendations through 5 p.m. EST Aug. 3 online (link).

Dr. Calonge, a family and preventive medicine physician, said the task force is seeking comments to make the recommendations as robust as possible. It could take 6 months to a year to finalize new recommendations, but Dr. Calonge said they are "hoping it will occur quicker than that." Until then, physicians should continue to follow the 2002 guidelines.

The task force for the first time evaluated whether to suggest routine osteoporosis screening for men. However, it concluded that "current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms."

The report continues: "Assuming that the relative benefits and harms of therapy in men are similar to those observed in women, the populations of men most likely to benefit from screening would be those who have 10-year risks of osteoporotic fracture comparable with or greater than that of a 65-year-old woman who has no additional risk factors."

The draft recommendations estimate that 12 million Americans will have osteoporosis by 2012. Half of all postmenopausal women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetimes, including 25% who will develop a vertebral deformity and 15% who will have a hip fracture.

An article in Annals of Internal Medicine published online July 5 updates evidence since the 2002 task force recommendations on osteoporosis screening (link).

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