• bone density;
  • cross-sectional geometry;
  • proximal femur;
  • ethnic differences


Osteoporosis is characterized by both a low bone mass and a disruption of the architectural arrangement of bone tissue, leading to decreased skeletal strength and increased fracture risk. Although there are well-known ethnic differences in bone mass and fracture risk, little is known about possible ethnic differences in bone structure. Therefore, we studied cross-sectional geometry in the hip in a sample of postmenopausal black and white women in order to investigate ethnic differences that might contribute to differences in bone strength and ultimately hip fracture risk. We recruited 371 postmenopausal black and white women who were entering the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) clinical trials in Detroit. Bone density measurements of the proximal femur were done by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) using a Hologic 1000 Plus bone densitometer. The DXA data were used for hip structure analysis, which treats the entire proximal femur as a continuous curved beam from the proximal shaft to the femoral neck. This permits the analysis of cross-sectional geometric properties in two narrow regions corresponding to thin (5 mm) cross-sectional slabs seen on edge. The results indicate significant ethnic differences in bone density, cross-sectional geometry, and dimensional variables. Specifically, the black women have a significantly higher bone density in both locations (10.1% and 4.1% for the neck and shaft, respectively); greater cross-sectional geometric properties in the neck (ranging from 6.1% to 11.6%), but a smaller endocortical diameter in the neck (3.6%). There are fewer significant differences in cross-sectional geometry in the shaft location. Our data suggest that the spatial distribution of bone is arranged in the femoral neck to resist greater loading in black women compared with white women.