By: Victoria Clements, CPMC Research Associate
Reviewed by: David Feinstein, DO, Cooper University Hospital and Tara Schmidlen, MS, LCGC, Coriell Institute for Medical Research

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle and increases the risk of fracture1.Bone is tissue made mostly of collagen, a protein that provides a soft framework, and calcium phosphate, a mineral that adds strength and hardens this framework. This combination of collagen and calcium makes bones both flexible and strong, which in turn helps bones to withstand stress2. In osteoporosis the bones lose density or mass and the structure of bone tissue becomes abnormal. As bones become less dense, they also become weaker and more likely to break3.

Osteoporosis is a silent disease – people who have it may not know that they do until they break a bone4. Osteoporosis can develop on its own or as the result of: having another disease (like anorexia, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, kidney failure, liver disease), the use of certain prescription drugs (corticosteroids, phenytoin, barbiturates, heparin), alcohol and tobacco use, and being unable to move for a long period of time due to a medical condition or injury5.

Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races, but is twice as common in women as men1, 6. Treatment for osteoporosis includes medication and hormone-related therapy1. Lifestyle changes and changes to medications (if possible) may reduce the risk of fractures1, 2.

How Common is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease6. About 40 million Americans have osteoporosis or are at high risk to develop osteoporosis due to low bone mass7. Studies suggest that approximately 1 in 2 women and up to 1 in 4 men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis8.

To schedule a free telephone consultation to discuss your CPMC results with a board-certified genetic counselor, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Learn more about Osteoporosis, from symptoms to understanding your risk, through the links below.

Page References

1. MayoClinic. Osteoporosis. Disease and Conditions 2013 June 21, 2013 [cited 2014 October 30]; Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/basics/definition/con-20019924.
2. NIAMSD. Osteoporosis Overview. 2012 January 2012 [cited 2014 October 30]; Available from: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/overview.pdf.
3. NOF. America's bone health: the state of osteoporosis and low bone mass in our nation. 2002 [cited 2014 October 30].
4. NIAMSD, N. Osteoporosis. [cited 2014 October 30]; Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/osteoporosis.html.
5. Odabasi, E., et al., Evaluation of secondary causes that may lead to bone loss in women with osteoporosis: a retrospective study. Arch Gynecol Obstet, 2009. 279(6): p. 863-7.
6. AMA, Osteoporosis. JAMA, 2014. 311(1).
7. ORBDNRC, N. What Is Osteoporosis? 2011 January 2011 [cited 2014 November 4]; Available from: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/osteoporosis_ff.pdf.
8. Foundation, N.O. What is Osteoporosis? [cited 2014 October 30]; Available from: http://nof.org/articles/7.

Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Learn more about Osteoporosis Learn More› ]

Risk Factors

Both genetic and non-genetic factors play a role in Osteoporosis Learn More› ]

Reduce Your Risk

Risk-reducing behaviors for Osteoporosis  
Learn More› ]

The CPMC Study

Learn how the CPMC Study identifies your risk for Osteoporosis [ Learn More › ]