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Terrifying new study shows how hip fractures are 'more deadly than cancers' in over 65s

Hip fractures in older people are more deadly than some cancers, new research shows. People over 65 who suffer a hip fracture are more likely to die within five years than patients who develop breast cancer, the study found.

While bone fractures have often been dismissed as relatively minor injuries, the study of 100,000 older fracture patients found, on average, 40 – 50 percent of men will die within five years of a hip fracture – with the risk of death increasing with age.

The research, recently published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, also found 20 – 30 percent of over 65-year-old women will die within five years of a hip fracture. Death rates were only ‘marginally’ better following a spinal fracture, the study showed.

Many deaths are caused by complications triggered by the life-changing injury, such as heart failure or pneumonia. The study, which was based on health records from Ontario, Canada, showed those over the age of 85 were at the most risk of dying following a fracture and the most common time for patients to die was within a month of the injury.

By comparison, nearly nine out of ten women with breast cancer will be expected to live a further five years. Meanwhile the risk of death following a fracture in the over 65’s is similar to developing prostate cancer, the analysis revealed.

This study is borne out by previous UK research which shows 28 percent of people over 60 who suffer a hip fracture will die within a year of their injury. The study has fueled calls for improved diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis, this condition which weakens bones and increases the risk of breaks, and is a leading cause of fractures in older people.

Experts say the findings underline the ‘serious threat’ of osteoporosis which can be effectively treated with a range of bone strengthening measures, including medication, if picked up early enough.

Fractures caused by osteoporosis affect half of women and a fifth of men over 50, a condition which can be linked to family history, autoimmune conditions, thyroid problems, smoking and the use of certain medications.

The disease is often known as the ‘silent epidemic’ because there no symptoms until a fracture occurs. Over the past year the Sunday Express has been campaigning to increase the number of specialist fracture services throughout the country known as Fracture Liaison Clinics.

Jill Griffin, head of clinical engagement at the Royal Osteoporosis Society said: “Many people think osteoporosis is not serious but people do not understand the serious and life changing consequences of fractures such as those to the spine and hip which have a debilitating and intolerable effect on the lives of all who suffer with them.”

She added: “This research shows that for older people the risk of death following a fracture is higher than for some cancers. We urgently need to turn the spotlight on older people who are at risk or those who have had previous fractures to ensure we pick up cases of osteoporosis so we can assess and treat them properly in order to prevent disability and death.”

The Royal Osteoporosis Society says the brittle bone disease ‘is one of the most urgent threats to people living well in later life.”
Its research shows. Two-thirds of people who need anti-osteoporosis medications are missing out on them – the equivalent to approximately 90,000 people every year.

They say a postcode lottery for appropriate services means people are being ‘fixed up and forgotten’ about. According to the ROS Fracture Liaison Services (FLS) reduce re-fracture risk by 30-40 percent.

However only 57 percent of the eligible population in England has access to one. Chief Executive of the Royal Osteoporosis Society, Craig Jones, said: “The end result of untreated osteoporosis is a broken hip, the heart-attack level event that ruins people’s lives and, in so many cases, ends them prematurely.

“That’s why we need Health Secretary Victoria Atkins to mandate or fund Fracture Liaison Services to diagnose people with osteoporosis after their very first break. Half of people who suffer a broken hip had a previous minor break which could have flagged them as being at risk.

“Mrs Atkins wouldn’t want a person who has had their first heart attack to be sent home without medication to prevent the next one – the exact same applies here”.

A spokeswoman for the government said:”NHS England is supporting requests from local integrated care boards to introduce Fracture Liaison Services to improve outcomes for those recovering from fractures.

“Musculoskeletal conditions are also something we’re exploring as part of our forthcoming Major Conditions Strategy, which is an opportunity to tackle multiple conditions, including osteoporosis, to improve outcomes for patients”.


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