(CNN) -The thyroid gland makes hormones that regulate metabolism. The thyroid also has other important effects throughout the body.

An overactive thyroid can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. A recent study examined whether the risk of these fractures also increases among patients with only mild abnormalities of the thyroid, those who have not developed any physical symptoms as a result of having too much or too little thyroid hormone.

"The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland and it sits right at the base of your neck. The thyroid can cause problems from overactivity or from underactivity," explained Dr. Anne R. Cappola, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine.

An underactive thyroid can cause constipation, unexplained weight gain or fatigue. An overactive thyroid can do the opposite; symptoms might include, weight loss, anxiety and heart palpitations. Too much thyroid hormone can also increase the risk for osteoporosis and fractures. But for people who only have mild abnormalities in thyroid activity and don't have any of these symptoms, do they also increase their risk for fractures?

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Dr. Cappola and co-authors examined the results of 13 individual research studies that included more than 70,000 patients from all over the world. All patients had testing of their thyroid hormone levels and were followed for an average of 12 years to see whether or not they experienced fractures.

"We found that three percent had a slightly overactive thyroid, five percent had a slightly underactive thyroid," Dr. Cappola said.

The study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Those who had the slightly overactive thyroid were more likely to have hip fractures and more likely to have any kind of fracture. The people who had just a little bit underactive thyroid didn't have any fracture risk at all from having that thyroid problem," Dr. Cappola said.

Currently, routine thyroid screening is not recommended.

"If someone has a slightly overactive thyroid that's something that needs to be paid attention to. What it suggests is if somebody has increased risk of fracture from having a slightly overactive thyroid that perhaps if we were to correct that and treat that we could prevent fractures," Dr. Cappola said.

The average age of patients that underwent thyroid testing was 64 and 61 percent were women.

In other health news, April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month and the Leah M. Fitch Cancer Center in Lawton is having the 'Just say ahh' screenings on Saturday, April 16, from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information or to make an appointment, call 580-250-6565.

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