Is there any difference between the bones in people from different races?

27 February 2011

Question

Hello from Toronto in Canada ! I would like to ask Chris if there is any difference either anatomically, or physiologically between the bones in people from different races around the world, and if so, what and why?
Thanks a lot !

Max Quijan...o.

Answer

We put this to Professor Tim Skerry and Dr Ken Poole...

Tim - Well there's certainly some basis for that. Black people do have stronger bones than white people but I think there's more to it than that and I think Ken, probably, as a clinician has some additional thoughts about that.

Chris - Ken?

Ken - Well that's very interesting. The MRC Human Nutrition Team in Cambridge often work in the Gambia and the bones of people there may look like they're osteoporotic on the scan, but actually they're stronger, and that's one of the paradoxes. But it's one of those things that when using the Frax tool, which is a new way of finding out people's risk of a fracture, you have to make sure you're in the right ethnicity group because it's calibrated by a different nation.

Chris - That's interesting. So if you don't make an account or take it into account where someone comes from, you could end up with the scan, giving you a misleading result for the very reason Tim just mentioned.

Ken - That's absolutely right and there are numbers available for each of the countries that they've got data available at the moment.

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