The study included nearly 5,000 women aged 67 and older who had normal bone mineral density or osteopenia (lower than normal bone mineral density, but not yet osteoporosis). The women also had no history of hip or spine fractures, and they had never received treatment for osteoporosis.
Follow-up bone mineral density scans were offered at year 2, 6, 8, 10 and 16, according to the study. All of the women were tested at least twice during the follow-up period, and some women received as many as five follow-up scans.
Based on the women's T-scores, the researchers estimated the number of years it would take 10 percent of the women to develop osteoporosis. For high-risk women with advanced osteopenia and T-scores of -2.49 to -2.00, the estimated time was 1.1 years. For the moderate group with T-scores of -1.99 to -1.50, the estimated time was five years.
And, for women with normal scores or moderate osteopenia (T-scores of -1.49 and higher), the time for 10 percent of the group to develop osteoporosis was more than 15 years.
"I wouldn't want to go so far as to say this [15 years] should be the screening interval. It's a long time, and some women may transition faster, but this is definitely something that needs to be re-addressed," said Gourlay.
"Women should talk with their doctor about this test. It's a test that sometimes gets forgotten, but it's important because treatment for osteoporosis can decrease the risk of fractures," noted Gourlay.
Honig added: "If someone has a normal bone density at age 65 or 67 and they haven't had a fracture, they don't need to do bone mineral density testing every two years. Could they stretch it out to 15 years? I don't know. I think maybe five or six years."
But, like Gourlay, Honig said it's very important to have a discussion with your doctor about your own individual risk. Certain factors, such as a family hi
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