Cancer and Osteoporosis

Cancer and Osteoporosis

World Cancer Day was this week. Some treatments for cancer can affect bone health but it's important to remember that there is still a lot you can do.

People who have undergone cancer therapy are at an increased risk of osteoporosis for a few reasons:

* The cancer my stimulate cells that break down bone

* Some cancer treatments affect bone health

* Certain cancers (such as prostate or breast cancer) are treated by hormone removal, which contributes to bone loss

Breast cancer

Women who have undergone breast cancer treatment are at an increased risk for osteoporosis and osteoporotic breaks. Most breast cancers need the female hormone estrogen to survive and grow. Cancer treatments work by starving the cancer of estrogen. Reduced levels of estrogen may lead to bone loss. Also, as a result of the breast cancer treatment, younger, pre-menopausal women may experience early menopause, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Click to read Osteoporosis Australia's factsheet on breast cancer

Prostate cancer

One form of treatment for prostate cancer is androgen deprivation therapy, where the amount of testosterone and related hormones are cut back (this can shrink the prostate tumour or slow its growth). Studies have shown that men who have hormone therapy or testes removal are at a significantly higher risk of an osteoporosis fracture. 

Click to read Osteoporosis Australia's factsheet on men

Talk to your doctor

It is important that people who have undergone cancer therapy are aware of their increased risk of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about the action that can be taken to help prevent osteoporosis and related fractures. Early diagnosis through a bone density test may be required.