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Summary: We explored the effect of using male and female reference data in a male sample to categorise areal bone mineral density (BMD). Using male reference data, a large proportion of fractures arose from osteopenia, whereas using female reference data shifted the fracture burden into normal BMD. Introduction: The purpose of this study was to describe fracture risk associated with osteopenia and osteoporosis in older men, defined by areal BMD and using cut-points derived from male and female reference data. Methods: As part of the Geelong Osteoporosis Study, we followed 619 men aged 60–93 years after BMD assessments (performed 2001–2006) until 2010, fracture, death or emigration. Post-baseline fractures were radiologically confirmed, and proportions of fractures in each BMD category were age-standardised to national profiles. Results: Based on World Health Organization criteria, and using male reference data, 207 men had normal BMD at the femoral neck, 357 were osteopenic and 55 were osteoporotic. Using female reference data, corresponding numbers were 361, 227 and 31. During the study, 130 men died, 15 emigrated and 63 sustained at least one fracture. Using male reference data, most (86.5 %) of the fractures occurred in men without osteoporosis on BMD criteria (18.4 % normal BMD, 68.1 % osteopenia). The pattern differed when female reference data were used; while most fractures arose from men without osteoporosis (88.2 %), the burden shifted from those with osteopenia (34.8 %) to those with normal BMD (53.4 %). Conclusions: Decreasing BMD categories defined increasing risk of fracture. Although men with osteoporotic BMD were at greatest risk, they made a relatively small contribution to the total burden of fractures. Using male reference data, two-thirds of the fractures arose from men with osteopenia. However, using female reference data, approximately half of the fractures arose from those with normal BMD. Using female reference data to define osteoporosis in men does not appear to be the optimal approach.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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