To study the structural basis of bone fragility in men, we compared bone size and volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) of the third lumbar vertebra and femoral neck in 95 men with spine fractures, 127 men with hip fractures, and 395 healthy controls using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). The results were expressed in absolute terms and age-specific SD scores (mean +/- SEM). In controls, vertebral body and femoral neck width increased across age, being 0.46 +/- 0.11 SD and 0.91 +/- 0.08 SD higher in elderly men than in young men, respectively (both,p < 0.001). Men with spine fractures had reduced vertebral body width (-0.45 +/- 0.10 SD;p < 0.01) but not femoral neck width (-0.15 +/- 0.10 SD, NS). Men with hip fractures had reduced femoral neck width (-0.45 +/- 0.11 SD; p < 0.01) and vertebral body width (-0.25 +/- 0.10 SD; p < 0.05). The deficits in bone volume (BV) exaggerated the deficits in bone mineral content (BMC) by 40% at the vertebrae in men with spine fractures and by 9% at the femoral neck in men with hip fractures. vBMD deficits were greater at the vertebrae in men with spine fractures than in men with hip fractures (-1.37 +/- 0.08 SD vs.-0.70 +/- 0.10 SD, respectively; p < 0.01) but were similar at the femoral neck (-0.93 +/- 0.10 SD and -0.76 +/- 0.11 SD, respectively, NS), despite the men with spine fracture being 10 years younger. Bone fragility leading to spine or hip fractures in men may be the result of fracture site-specific deficits in bone size and vBMD that have their origins in growth, aging, or both.
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