A new study conducted by medical researchers from the Albany Medical Center in New York found that men with low testosterone have a high incidence of osteopenia, which in turn can significantly increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
PR Newswire and Medscape report that Dr. Joseph Ellen, MD, and his team of researchers presented their findings at the American Urological Association (AUA) 2015 Annual Meeting in New Orleans last month. The doctors found that in addition to the link between osteopenia and low testosterone (otherwise known as “low T” or hypogonadism), men who put off treatment are at greater risk of developing the bone disease.
“Low testosterone is one of the more established risk factors for osteoporosis in men,” Dr. Ellen said. “We were surprised that we found such a high incidence of osteopenia and osteoporosis in our clinic, especially because the average age of the men was only about 50 years.”
The men who participated in the study all had clinical and biochemical hypogonadism. Medically speaking, that is defined as having a testosterone level lower than 300 ng/dL. The participants underwent dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) bone scans.
The mean age of the men in the study was 50.7 years. Of the 235 men who participated, 56% had normal bone mineral density levels, 39% had osteopenia, and 5% had osteoporosis.
“In our clinic, if a man has a testosterone of below 300 ng/dL, especially if he has risk factors for low BMD [bone mineral density] — including smoking, long-term steroid use, and diabetes — we think it’s worthwhile to get a bone scan,” Dr. Ellen said.
Though Dr. Ellen maintains that it is critical for men to find out if they have osteopenia, he acknowledges that osteoporosis in men is still not fully understood. “There is no good prospective study to determine what the best treatment is,” he added.
In general, diagnosing low testosterone is difficult, considering the disease is based on several factors, some of which ostensibly appear to be products of aging. Testosterone levels in men, for example, tend to naturally peak around age 30 and subsequently decrease by 1-2% every year.