Calcitonin secretion in postmenopausal osteoporosis

N Engl J Med. 1985 Apr 25;312(17):1097-100. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198504253121705.


Calcitonin deficiency has been implicated in the pathogenesis of accelerated bone loss, especially in postmenopausal osteoporosis. To investigate this issue, we studied 25 patients with untreated postmenopausal osteoporosis, 14 age-matched and sex-matched healthy controls (spinal bone mineral density greater than or equal to age-specific and sex-specific mean), and 5 women who had undergone total thyroidectomy. Each subject received an intravenous infusion of 2 mg of elemental calcium per kilogram of body weight over 5 minutes, to test the C-cell secretory reserve. We measured calcitonin by radioimmunoassay in whole plasma and in silica-cartridge extracts of plasma, the latter method providing greatly improved sensitivity and specificity for monomeric calcitonin. Basal immunoreactive calcitonin concentrations, whether measured in whole plasma or in extracts, were significantly higher in the subjects with osteoporosis (P less than 0.01) than in the healthy controls. The calcitonin secretory reserve, as assessed by calcium stimulation, was normal in the osteoporotic group but virtually absent in the thyroidectomy group. We conclude that postmenopausal osteoporosis is not associated with and does not result from calcitonin deficiency. On the contrary, excessive skeletal calcium release may stimulate calcitonin secretion in patients with the disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Calcitonin / blood
  • Calcitonin / metabolism*
  • Calcium
  • Female
  • Goiter / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Menopause*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism*


  • Calcitonin
  • Calcium