Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Osteoporosis and prostate cancer

Q. My 64-year-old wife was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis. Her doctor said medication would help, and he reassured her that having osteoporosis was not all bad since it indicates a reduced risk for breast cancer. I want to know if osteoporosis in men affects the risk of prostate cancer.

A. At first glance, a link between bones and the breast or prostate would seem far-fetched. In fact, though, there is a link; it depends on the fact that all three organs are affected by sex hormones.

Bones are dynamic tissues that undergo constant remodeling throughout life. In youth, bone formation outpaces bone resorption; that's how bones grow. In young adulthood, the two processes are balanced, and bones are at their strongest. But as we age, bone resorption gets the upper hand. As bones lose calcium, they become weaker. Doctors call mild bone calcium deficiency osteopenia and more advanced deficiency osteoporosis, the "thin bone" disorder that increases the risk of fractures.

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