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Secondary causes of low bone mass in patients with breast cancer: a need for greater vigilance.

PURPOSE: An observational study to assess the prevalence of secondary causes of low bone density in patients with breast cancer.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Female patients within 5 years of breast cancer diagnosis and age older than 50 years at diagnosis were recruited. Consenting patients completed a questionnaire and had blood taken for serum calcium, vitamin D, parathyroid hormone (PTH), and thyroid function testing. Bone mineral density (BMD) was assessed. Abnormalities were additionally investigated and treated.

RESULTS: Two hundred patients were recruited. The median age at diagnosis was 62 years. One hundred sixty-nine patients had hormone receptor (HR) -positive cancer. Vitamin D and thyroid function were assessed in 200 patients; PTH was assessed in 197 patients; and BMD was assessed in 187 patients. Eighty-seven patients (46.5%) had osteopenia, and 24 patients (12.8%) had osteoporosis. Vitamin D levels were insufficient (ie, 50 to 75 nmol/L) in 74 patients (37%) and were deficient (ie, < 50 nmol/L) in 54 patients (27%). Only 24 of 65 patients taking vitamin D supplements were replete (ie, > 75 nmol/L). Thirty-nine (21%) of 197 patients had PTH concentrations greater than the normal range. Six had primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT), and two more had recent surgery for PHPT. Twenty-seven had secondary hyperparathyroidism (HPT) from vitamin D deficiency and six had normocalcemic HPT. Of 90 patients with low BMD and HR-positive cancer, 8% (seven of 90 patients) had new or recent PHPT, and 63% (57 of 90 patients) had insufficient or deficient vitamin D. More patients with HR-positive cancer than with HR-negative cancer had elevated PTH (38 of 167 v three of 30 patients, respectively; P = .10).

CONCLUSION: Secondary causes of low BMD are common in postmenopausal women. Identification and management of secondary causes should be included in bone health management algorithms.

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