People with osteoporosis could be put at risk by medical practices that do not take their fractures seriously, according to Australian scientists.
They say most people with osteoporosis who suffer a fracture should be given bone-strengthening drugs.
However, this is common practice only for hip and vertebra fractures, say Associate Professor Jackie Center and Dr Dana Bliuc from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
Their study shows any fracture can be dangerous to a person with osteoporosis, potentially shortening their life or leading to secondary fractures.
A third of Australian men and half of women over the age of 65 will have at least one fracture as a result of osteoporosis, according to the institute.
About half of fractures are to a hip or vertebra, and these patients are more likely to be given bone-strengthening drugs than for other types of fracture, which tend to be taken less seriously.
But only about 20 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men receive effective treatment.
There is a sliding scale of severity, with hip fractures the most serious, according to the report published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Those close to the body, such as rib or pelvic fractures, could be as serious as vertebral fractures and have the potential to shorten life, said Dr Bliuc.
Wrist or ankle fractures did not in themselves shorten life, although they doubled the risk of new fractures elsewhere in the body, according to the scientists who analysed data from the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study, the world's longest-running large-scale study of osteoporotic bone fractures.
"For people over 75, the risk of having a subsequent fracture is the same, no matter what the initial fracture type. This is important to know, because the second fracture could be a hip or vertebral fracture," said Dr Bliuc.
Prof Center said most osteoporotic fractures should be treated with drugs to reduce the risk of further fracture.
"Most doctors know it is wise to treat hip and vertebral fractures, but many do not take the other fracture types as seriously.
"There are several drugs that are well tolerated and proven to be effective in reducing risk of fractures and offering people a better quality of life for longer."