Elderly men with elevated levels of low-grade inflammation measured by high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) are more likely to break a bone, particularly vertebrae, a Swedish population-based study showed.

Fracture risk was 48 percent higher for the top hs-CRP tertile than all others combined, independent of bone mineral density, Claes Ohlsson, MD, PhD, of Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues found.

Clinically-identified vertebral fracture risk was 61% higher in an exploratory subanalysis, the researchers reported online in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Prior epidemiologic studies have shown similar relationships among women.

These results could aid in prevention and treatment, the group suggested, although they didn't recommend any treatment or screening strategy based on the results.

A link is biologically plausible, as inflammation upregulates osteoclasts and downregulates osteoblasts, Ohlsson's group pointed out.

"It is well known that chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are associated with bone loss and an enhanced fracture risk, indicating a relationship between the immune system and bone," they wrote.

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