What is the link between Osteoporosis and Breast Cancer?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 08, 2011

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Quick Bites

  • Chemotherapy leads to loss of ovarian function.
  • This loss reduces level of estrogen production.
  • Estrogen offers a protective coating for the bones.
  • Healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of osteoporosis.

Breast cancer is, as opposed to popular belief, a common type of cancer next to skin cancer. According to reports by The National Cancer Institute, 1 in 8 women in the United States is likely to develop breast cancer during her lifetime.

Osteoporosis on the other hand, affects an estimated 44 million Americans of whom 68 percent are women.

Breast cancer and osteoporosis

The link between Breast Cancer and Osteoporosis

Women who have had treatment for breast cancer tend to run an increased risk for osteoporosis and fracture. Naturally, estrogen has a protective effect on the bones, so if there is a reduction in the production of the hormone, bone less is likely to take place. In breast cancer patients/survivors, the ingestion of chemotherapy or the use of surgery leads to a loss of ovarian function, and thereby a drop in the level of estrogen. Those women who are premenopausal before their cancer treatment tend to undergo menopause much earlier than those who have not had the disease. In these women, the probability of bone loss is higher.

Several studies also suggest that chemotherapy may have a direct, negative effect on the bones. Moreover, breast cancer itself stimulates the production of cells that break down bone, called osteoclasts.

There, however, is nothing to be worried about if you have had breast cancer treatment before. There are several strategies that can reduce the risk of osteoporosis or limit the effects of the disease in already diagnosed women. Some of these strategies outline the following:


Focus on Adequate Nutrition Supply

Some studies have found a link between diet and breast cancer, though it is not clear which supplements or foods play a role in reducing breast cancer risk. To maintain bone health, you must ensure the consumption of a balanced diet that is rich in calcium as well as vitamin D. Some good sources of vitamin C include dark green, leafy vegetables as well as calcium-fortified foods and beverages.


Healthy Lifestyle

To keep your risk of osteoporosis limited, make sure that you reduce or quit smoking. This is because it is possible for smokers to absorb less calcium from their diets. Women should also try to consume alcohol in limited quantity because several studies have found a link between alcohol consumption and a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Alcohol has also been found to negatively affect bone health.

Breast cancer and osteoporosis


Just like muscle, bone is a tissue that becomes stronger with exercise. The best exercises that you can do for bone strength are weight-bearing exercises that force you to work against gravity. Some of these examples include climbing stairs, walking, dancing and lifting weights.


Read more articles on Understand Osteoporosis and Breast Cancer.

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