Dubbo study tracks
THE Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study, run by the Garvan Institute, is providing the world's best data on osteoporosis. It has followed more than 2500 people aged over 60 from the Dubbo community since 1989, and is the world's longest osteoporosis study - and the first to include men.
Three-quarters of the risk of developing the condition is genetic. While no genes have yet been unequivocally linked to it, Garvan researchers, led by Associate Professor Tuan Nguyen, have collaborated with the Icelandic genetics company, deCode, to map the entire human genome in a search for responsible genes.
Earlier this year they announced that their study of 1500 women from Dubbo and more than 12,000 women from Iceland and Denmark had identified five areas of interest in the DNA code linked to bone mineral density and fractures that warranted further study.
The find, published in The New England Journal Of Medicine, may eventually help identify people most at risk from the disease who would benefit from early treatment or lifestyle changes. It was a "very demanding and labour-intensive" study, said Nguyen.
His team has also linked the risk of bone fracture to prostate cancer in men. A study published in the journal Bone earlier this year shows that men with the cancer face a 50 per cent higher risk of fracture, which increases to nearly double the risk if they are receiving androgen deprivation therapy.
Nguyen says it is not clear what mechanism causes the link, but "the clear message that comes out of this study is that men with prostate cancer should consider seeking evaluation for osteoporosis, particularly if they are being treated with androgen deprivation therapy".
Institute researchers have also found that men with low testosterone have double the risk of fracture.
Using data collected in the Dubbo study, the Garvan Institute has formulated a web-based tool to enable people to calculate their fracture risk. Access it at www.fractureriskcalculator.com
Photo: Peter Morris