Cancellous bone is the spongy interior layer of bone that protects the bone marrow. It is also be called a spongy bone or trabecular bone. It structurally resembles honeycomb and accounts for about 20% of bone matter in the human body.
This type of bone is often also found on the edges of rounded bones like those of the arms and legs. Though this bone is not quite as strong as compact bone, it is somewhat more flexible and is useful in bones that are jointed. Primarily, however, cancellous bone protects the bone marrow, performing a useful and necessary task in the body.
Some conditions can affect the cancellous bone in a person’s body. For instance, those with osteoporosis tend to have less of this type of bone than normal. Since much of the cancellous bone is found in bones in the pelvis and spine, a lack of it can be very dangerous.
A broken pelvis can result in inappropriate blood clotting or bleeding because so many tiny arteries are attached to the pelvis. A broken spine is even more significant. It can lead in some cases to minor or major paralysis depending upon location and severity of the break.
Studies suggest that simple aging slightly changes in this type of bone, making it less complex as people age. Since the bone lacks some of its “spongy” quality in those who are over 50, it may be indicated in more breakages even when major osteoporosis is not present. Cancellous bone also does not regenerate as easily or as quickly in those over 50, especially in women. For those older than 50, they may experience much longer healing times for breakages that reach the interiors of their bones.
Some other conditions may affect cancellous bone and compact bone. These include low thyroid conditions, lack of appropriate hormones after menopause or hysterectomy. Brittle bone syndrome can significantly affect both cancellous bone and compact bone. Malnutrition can lead to poor bone structure and bone development, and alcoholism predisposes one toward osteoporosis as well.
To protect bone growth, medical researchers recommend treating underlying conditions where possible, maintaining an active lifestyle, refraining from too much alcohol and taking daily calcium supplementation.