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Causes

Understanding the causes of osteoporosis

Our bones are living tissue and change throughout our lives. Old bone is broken down and replaced by new bone in a process called bone turnover. Whilst a child’s skeleton renews itself every two years, an adult’s takes between seven and ten years (Source: National Osteoporosis Society).

The density of our bones increases until we reach our mid 20s and it is important to ‘bank’ as much bone as you can during this period by taking weight bearing exercise and eating a well balanced, calcium-rich diet. In most cases, after the age of 35, bone loss starts to increase very gradually (Source: National Osteoporosis Society).

Osteoporosis results from an imbalance between the bone-building and bone-destroying cells involved in the normal cycle of bone formation and resorption, increasing the rate of bone destruction.

A variety of factors put people at risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Genetics is important – our height and strength of our bones is inherited and if one of your parents has broken a hip you may be more susceptible to developing osteoporosis.

Roche’s scientists are researching the genes involved in bone formation or metabolism and any variations in them which may result in an increased risk to develop osteoporosis. Our understanding of this predisposition is integral to our ambition to develop even more personalised solutions to manage and tackle the disease.

Age is also important, because bone loss increases as we get older. Women are more at risk as their bones are smaller and a fall in levels of the hormone oestrogen during the menopause can speed up bone loss.

Some diseases, such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease, or treatments, such as chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid therapy, can also weaken the bones.  

Lifestyle and nutrition also play a part - smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, low body weight and a diet poor in calcium and vitamin D can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.