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Hormone test may predict rate of menopausal bone loss

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Women going through the menopause lose bone mass and bone strength, but the rate of bone loss varies considerably.

A new test devised by doctors in California could help predict which women will lose bone faster than average. This would allow them to be targeted for treatment before losing a substantial amount of bone mass.

The findings of the research were presented on Friday at ENDO 2016, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

“Measuring anti-Mullerian hormone, a marker of ovarian functioning, in the blood in women early in menopause transition (when they are still having menstrual bleeding, but a bit less regularly) can help women and their clinicians predict the rate of future bone loss during the transition and determine the likelihood of faster than average loss,” explained lead study author Dr. Arun S. Karlamangla, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles.

“Bone strength in older ages and the ability to avoid devastating hip and spine fractures depend equally on peak bone mass achieved in young adulthood and the amount of bone lost during and after the menopause transition,” Dr. Karlamangla added.

The researchers analysed data from 474 women participants in the multi-ethnic, multi-site Study of Women´s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) conducted at seven academic medical centres in the United States. The participants were between 42 and 52 years of age, were pre- or early peri-menopausal, had an intact uterus with one or two ovaries, and were not taking exogenous sex steroid hormones.

As part of the study, anti-Mullerian hormone levels in the blood were measured every year and the participants also had a bone mineral density scan two to four years before their final menstrual period and a second scan three to four years later, with changes in bone density recorded.

Results showed that anti-Mullerian hormone levels strongly predicted the rate of bone loss during the menopause transition and may help identify which women can be expected to lose bone at a faster than average rate.