Strong bones in menopause may increase risk of breast cancer

Strong bones may make older, post-menopausal women at greater risk for breast cancer, according to a study conducted by University of Arizona, reported by KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

Bone scans are used to check for osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. Women are typically four times more likely than men to suffer from osteoporosis. Because there is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen after menopause and the development of osteoporosis, most doctors advise older women to have bone density tests every year along with a mammogram.

The University of Arizona’s eight-year study of 10,000 post-menopausal women found that the results of a routine bone density test not only could reveal osteoporosis, it also may provide important clues in predicting breast cancer risk in older, post-menopausal women. The study, which looked at hip-bone mineral density T-score, found older women with high bone density twice as likely to develop breast cancer.

“High bone density is a marker of increased risk for breast cancer. We can use that piece of information to predict your breast cancer risk in the future,” said Zhao Chen, Ph.D, MPH, University of Arizona epidemiologist.

Bone density often means a higher production of estrogen, which researchers say may explain the correlation between high bone density and breast cancer risk.

Conversely, KABC-TV reports that some osteoporosis medications have been shown to prevent and even curtail breast cancer. For example, raloxifene (Evista) has already been FDA approved to treat both osteoporosis and prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal women at high risk of developing the disease.