Women diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50 or younger face a much higher risk of the bone-loss condition osteoporosis, compared to women of the same age who do not have cancer. The findings, which complement prior research showing higher bone-loss risk in older breast cancer survivors, come from a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The study, published Nov. 13 in the journal Breast Cancer Research, compared the rates of osteoporosis and a less severe bone-loss condition, osteopenia, among 211 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the past 2.7 years and 567 cancer-free peers with no history of cancer.
Women diagnosed when age 50 or younger had twice the risk of developing either osteoporosis or osteopenia, compared to cancer-free peers, during the roughly six-year study window. For breast cancer survivors who had undergone treatments that block estrogen production, the risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis was even higher — up to four times higher than in the cancer-free group.
“These findings show that even younger women have a relatively high risk of bone loss with standard breast cancer treatments, and in many cases we saw this bone loss occurring in just a few years,” says study senior author Dr. Kala Visvanathan, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of epidemiology. “These results suggest that we should monitor even young breast cancer patients for bone loss during and after therapy.”