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Women who suffer a wrist fracture face a higher risk of more serious fractures in other parts of their bodies later in life, new research suggests.

The study, conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), used information from the Women´s Health Initiative, a major study in which more than 160,000 women aged 50+ answered annual questionnaires for over a decade, detailing the fractures they experienced.

Results published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research show that one in five women who experienced a broken wrist went on to suffer a non-wrist fracture during the next 10 years. The findings also suggest that women who broke a wrist stood a 40% higher chance of breaking other bones during the next 11 years compared with women who did not break a wrist.

Specifically, the researchers found that having a wrist fracture was associated with:

  • a 50% higher risk of subsequent spine fractures
  • an 80% higher risk of upper arm fractures
  • a 90% higher risk of a lower arm non-wrist fracture
  • a 40% higher risk of leg fractures
  • a 50% higher risk of hip fractures

These associations persisted even after adjusting for factors such as bone mineral density, physical activity, smoking and alcohol use, calcium and vitamin D intake, falls and all other known fracture risk factors, UCLA noted. This may be due to aberrations in bone structure or strength.

“Our results emphasise that wrist fractures do identify a group of women at particular risk for future fracture,” said lead author Dr. Carolyn Crandall, a professor of medicine at UCLA´s David Geffen School of Medicine. “The information highlights the great importance of working to develop strategies to prevent future fractures after an initial wrist fracture occurs.”

The researchers say that women who suffer a wrist fracture should undergo bone mineral density testing, and those with a bone mineral density T-score of equal to or less than -1.0 should be diagnosed as having osteoporosis.