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What is the difference between compact and cancellous bone?

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Quick Answer

According to the University of Michigan, the differences between compact and cancellous bones are structure and location. Compact bone is denser than cancellous bone, found along the shafts of bones and covering cancellous bone, which is found at the end of joints. Compact bone is also made of osteons while cancellous bone is made of trabeculae.

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The University of Michigan goes on to say that while compact bone is dense, cancellous bone, also known as spongy bone, is 50 to 90 percent porous. Cancellous bone is located not only at the end of joints but is also found on the inside of bones, as Reference.com states. It is inside this bone that red bone marrow is found, where arteries and veins run, and where the production of blood's cellular components take place.

Compact bone, on the other hand is heavy and hard where cancellous bone is light, because it must support the human body. Arizona State University points out that compact bone is solid, with the only pores being the holes or canals through which nerves and blood vessels run. These canals are surrounded by cells called osteocytes, and form rings called osteons, which are like thick tubes that made up compact bones. Nearly 80 percent of bone in the human body is compact bone.

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