Steroid creams may increase the risk of osteoporosis

Topical corticosteroids, creams commonly used to treat inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis, could increase your risk of osteoporosis over time, according to international research. The team matched nearly 130,000 osteoporosis cases and 35,000 major osteoporotic fractures and matched them with nearly 520,000 and 140,000 people respectively of similar demographics without the osteoporosis conditions. The researchers categorised participants into groups based on how many steroid creams they had used over time, and found the higher cumulative dose they had had, the higher their risk of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures. While this kind of study cannot prove cause-and-effect, the researchers say people need to be careful about long-term use of steroid creams, especially in more susceptible populations such as women and younger people.

Journal/conference: Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology

Link to research (DOI): 10.1111/jdv.19697

Organisation/s: National Taiwan University College of Medicine

Funder: None declared.

Media release

From: Wiley

Do steroid creams affect bone health?

New research indicates that higher doses of topical corticosteroids, which are commonly used to treat inflammatory skin conditions, are linked with elevated risks of osteoporosis and bone fractures associated with osteoporosis. The findings are published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology and are based on information from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database.

Investigators selected 129,682 osteoporosis cases and 34,999 major osteoporotic fracture (MOF) cases and matched them with 518,728 and 139,996 controls (without osteoporosis or MOF) by sex and age.

The team found clear dose–response relationships between long-term use of topical corticosteroids and osteoporosis and MOF. For example, compared with no doses, low, medium, and high cumulative of doses topical corticosteroids were associated with 1.22-, 1.26-, and 1.34-times higher odds of developing osteoporosis over five years. These respective doses were linked with 1.12-, 1.19-, and 1.29-times higher odds of experiencing MOF. Women had higher risks of osteoporosis and MOF than men. Also, younger people (<50 years) had a higher risk of osteoporosis compared with other age groups.

“This study emphasizes that using topical corticosteroids to treat inflammatory skin conditions should be done very carefully and clinicians should be aware of these potential side effects,” said corresponding author Chia-Yu Chu, MD PhD, of National Taiwan University Hospital and National Taiwan University College of Medicine.


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