Premature bone loss after childhood chemotherapy may be underestimated in patients with bone sarcoma. Methotrexate (MTX), a standard agent in osteosarcoma protocols, reportedly reduces bone mineral density (BMD). The literature, however, has reported cases of BMD reduction in patients with Ewing's sarcoma treated without MTX. Thus, it is unclear whether osteoporosis after chemotherapy relates to MTX or to other factors.
We therefore asked whether (1) young patients with a bone sarcoma had BMD reduction, (2) patients treated with MTX had lower BMD, and (3) other factors (eg, lactose intolerance or vitamin D deficiency) posed additional risks for low BMD.
We retrospectively reviewed 43 patients with malignancies who had dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) (lumbar, femoral); 18 with Ewing's sarcoma (mean age, 26 ± 8 years), and 25 with an osteosarcoma (mean age, 27 ± 10 years). The mean time since diagnosis was 8 ± 4 years in the group with Ewing’s sarcoma and 7 ± 5 years in the group with osteosarcoma. At last followup we determined BMD (computing z-scores), fracture rate, and lifestyle, and performed serum analysis.
BMD reduction was present in 58% of patients (37% had a z-score between −1 and −2 SD, 21% had a z-score less than −2 SD) in at least one measured site. Seven of the 43 patients (16%) had nontrauma or tumor-associated fractures after chemotherapy. Findings were similar in the Ewing and osteosarcoma subgroups. We found vitamin D deficiency in 38 patients (88%) and borderline elevated bone metabolism; lactose intolerance was present in 16 patients (37%).
Doctors should be aware of the possibility of major bone loss after chemotherapy with a risk of pathologic fracture. Vitamin D deficiency, calcium malnutrition, and lactose intolerance may potentiate the negative effects of chemotherapy, and should be considered in long-term patient management.
Level of Evidence
Level II, prognostic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
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We thank Franz Quehenberger PhD, Institute of Medical Informatics, Statistics and Documentation, for statistical analysis, and Thomas Lovse MD, Karin Novotny, and Andreas Frings for their assistance.
Each author certifies that he or she, or a member of their immediate family, has no commercial associations (eg, consultancies, stock ownership, equity interest, patent/licensing arrangements, etc) that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted article.
All ICMJE Conflict of Interest Forms for authors and Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research editors and board members are on file with the publication and can be viewed on request.
Each author certifies that his or her institution approved the human protocol for this investigation, that all investigations were conducted in conformity with ethical principles of research, and that informed consent for participation in the study was obtained.
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Pirker-Frühauf, U.M., Friesenbichler, J., Urban, E. et al. Osteoporosis in Children and Young Adults: A Late Effect After Chemotherapy for Bone Sarcoma. Clin Orthop Relat Res 470, 2874–2885 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11999-012-2448-7
- Bone Mineral Density
- Lower Bone Mineral Density
- Lactose Intolerance