If you're a woman in your 50s, chances are you've already had a bone density scan to determine whether you are at risk for osteoporosis, a disorder characterized by thinning bones. Bone density tests have become routine for women after menopause, when declining estrogen levels affect bones. But now new research suggests that women in their 50s and even 60s may not need to get tested more than once a decade – if that.
The new research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the medical histories of nearly 5,000 women 67 or older who had either normal bone density or slightly low bone density. The researchers found that osteoporosis develops so slowly that there was no need to test frequently.
The big question here is how long the interval between testing should be and there's no clear answer. It really depends on a woman's age and particular risk factors for osteoporosis. The disorder develops more rapidly in older women, especially those in their 70s. Very thin women are also at higher risk because they are more likely to have lower bone density. You need to talk to your doctor about how this new research affects you.