Between 50 and 70 percent of women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer stop having regular menstrual cycles. A new study shows that these women also begin to lose bone mass within 6 months of starting chemotherapy.
"Bone loss occurs early and rapidly, and this is an under-appreciated side effect" of chemotherapy, says Charles L. Shapiro of Ohio State University in Columbus.
He and his colleagues studied 49 women who received 3 or 6 months of chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. Of these women, 35 missed their menstrual cycles for 1 year and so were diagnosed with ovarian failure.
Within 6 months of starting their treatments, they also lost about 4 percent of the bone density in their spines. After another 6 months, the women had lost an additional 3.7 percent of spinal bone mass.
Tests on the women's thighbones showed a 2.6 percent loss at 6 months after starting chemotherapy and another 2 percent loss by the time a year had