Osteoporosis prevention within reach, professor says Hopkins health forum attracts 1,000 participants

November 24, 1996|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Prevention of osteoporosis is within reach and new therapies, other than estrogen treatment, are providing wider choices for patients, a Johns Hopkins professor reported yesterday at a women's health forum sponsored by the university.

"Estrogen remains the gold standard," said Dr. Michael Levine of the school's endocrinology and metabolism division. Recent studies all but prove that osteoporosis can be prevented by early screening and treatment, he said.

The forum at the Sheraton Inner Harbor attracted about 1,000 participants from the mid-Atlantic region who heard leading Hopkins medical faculty discuss advances in disease prevention and diagnosis and issues that ranged from managing pain to improving memory.

In its second year, the forum was developed by Harriet Legum and Mollye Block, longtime volunteers at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

"Both Harriet and Mollye believe very strongly that education helps empower women to take responsibility and improve their own health," said Leslie Waldman, spokeswoman for Hopkins. Attendance was up by about 50 percent over last year.

Levine, one of four doctors who led a session on preventing disease, said that until recently osteoporosis was typically diagnosed only after a patient has already lost a couple of inches in height and has suffered bone fractures. But anyone who is at risk can undergo a painless, 10-minute X-ray-type scan to determine if bone mass is low.

Fosamax, a drug approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration last year, is being used as an alternative to estrogen for building bone mass.

But Levine said only about 15 percent of the women who are candidates for treatment are being reached.

Between the ages of 50 and 59, about 25 percent of women will develop osteoporosis, he said.

In the battle against breast cancer, researchers are making progress but have far to go to prevent the disease, said Dr. Nancy Davidson, director of the Breast Cancer Program at Hopkins.

The results of a large trial test of the drug Tamoxifen will be complete after the year 2000 and should indicate whether it could be useful in preventing breast cancer.

Other prevention studies are under way using derivatives of vitamin A.

Based on recent literature, the risk of the disease may drop slightly for women under age 40 if they exercise as regularly as adolescents and may increase slightly for women who drink several alcoholic drinks a day, Davidson said.

Pub Date: 11/24/96

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