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Smoking hurts teen girls' bones

Lower density likely in adolescents who smoke cigarettes

High school might be a bit early to start thinking about bone loss and osteoporosis, but a new study finds that teenage girls who smoke may put themselves on a trajectory to accrue less bone mineral than those who don’t light up.

Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density that predisposes people to fractures and leaves many elderly people — particularly women — hunched over. While bones regenerate and remodel nonstop over a lifetime, the teen years are crucial to developing a strong, dense skeleton.

“This age group is when you should gain about 50 percent of your bone accrual,” says study coauthor Lorah Dorn, a developmental psychologist and pediatric nurse practitioner at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Failing to build adequate bone strength in adolescence could jeopardize a young woman’s ability to fully accumulate a “bone bank” that will be needed when she someday reaches menopause and begins to lose bone mass, she says.

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