More than 11,000 women across the country are set to take part in a £4.13m study which could change the way osteoporosis is diagnosed and treated.
The Screening Of Older women for Prevention of fracture (Scoop) study will be one of the largest studies into osteoporosis undertaken in the world, and is being led by scientists at the University of Southampton.
Under the scheme, women aged 70 to 85 will be screened individually for the brittle bone disease, which commonly affects women after the menopause.
The disease already causes some 200,000 bone fractures in the UK each year, and is thought to cost both health and social services up to £1.7bn annually.
Participants in the Scoop study will be asked about their personal and family medical history and lifestyle in a bid to establish if some factors make them more susceptible to the disease.
Professor Cyrus Cooper, director of the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Resource Centre based at the University of Southampton, said: "At the moment, women offered a scan are mainly those who have already suffered a fracture or are suspected by their GP to be at high risk.
"Given the magnitude of the public health problem, a widespread and systematic screening programme could cost-effectively prevent fractures."