A large number of women are not beeing properly screened or treated for osteoporosis, warn researchers.

In a cohort of 615 postmenopausal women who underwent dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry screening, nearly half (41.3%) did not meet the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) criteria for bone-density testing. In addition, 25.5% of the women in the cohort were not taking calcium, 31.1% were not taking vitamin D, and 59.8% were not exercising for at least 30 minutes per week.

Using the NAMS 2006 Osteoporosis Position Statement for screening and therapeutic guidelines, investigators Peter F. Schnatz, DO, and associates found that among the 102 women with any of the approved indications for treatment, 15.7% were not taking calcium; 18.6% were not taking vitamin D; 52.7% were not exercising at least two hours per week; and 35.3% were not receiving therapy. Yet of the 467 women with no indication for treatment, 17.8% were receiving bisphosphonate, raloxifene (Evista) or calcitonin therapy.

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“Inappropriate screening may also lead to improper management of osteoporosis and its associated complications,” noted the investigators in their online report for Menopause.

Although there have been conflicting findings as to whether using oral bisphosphonates heightens a person’s risk of developing esophageal cancer, the FDA has issued a statement expressing the belief that the benefits of these drugs continue to outweigh their potential risks for people with osteoporosis.

The FDA’s review is ongoing, and the agency has not concluded that patients taking oral bisphosphonates do in fact have an increased risk of esophageal cancer. However, the agency noted, “esophageal cancer is rare, especially in women.”