The Task Force is an independent panel of experts sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The recommendations, which are published in the September 17 Annals of Internal Medicine, mark the first time the Task Force has called for routine osteoporosis screening.
For women who live to be 85, approximately 50 percent will have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lives; 25 percent of these women will develop an abnormality of the spine; and 15 percent will fracture their hip. While no clinical studies have been done to assess the effectiveness of screening in reducing osteoporotic fractures, there is ample evidence that bone density testing can adequately identify women who could benefit from treatment. A new class of drugs called bisphosphonates has proved effective at reducing the risk of fracture in women with low bone density, leading the Task Force to believe that screening can be beneficial.
"As the number of people in our country over 65 continues to grow, osteoporosis screening is taking on a new importance," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
"The evidence shows that the risk for osteoporosis and fractures increases with age, and the means are now available to detect low bone density and treat it," said Heidi D. Nelson, M.D., M.P.H., of the Evidence-based Practice Center at Oregon Health & Science University. Nelson led the evidence review along with Mark Helfand, M.D., M.P.H., and a team of researchers at OHSU.