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More than 2 million men suffer from osteoporosis, but health care workers and patients perceive the ailment as a disease that primarily affects women. A new study suggests that this perception may contribute to a widespread failure to test and treat men for osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and increases the likelihood of fractures.

The study, published in The Journal Of Bone & Joint Surgery, evaluated the medical records of 344 women and 95 men over the age of 50 treated for fractures at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. More than half of women evaluated received an osteoporosis screening, while only 18% of men in the same position were screened. After treatment for bone injury, only 21% of men began calcium and vitamin D treatments to help prevent osteoporosis.

“It’s traditionally been thought of as a women’s disease, and all of the attention has been on women after menopause,” said lead study author Tamara Rozental, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Rozental says that doctors and patients should both do more to raise awareness of the risk osteoporosis poses to men.

Evaluating data from only one hospital limits the scope of the study, but Rozental says they’re at the forefront of research and there aren’t yet large data sets to utilize.

The lack of screening carries increased risks for an aging population, Rozental adds: Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries among adults over 65, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A third of older adults falls each year, but most do not seek adequate treatment afterward.

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