Calcium May Cut Cancer Risk
Higher Calcium Intake May Reduce Risk of Colorectal and Other Types of Digestive Cancers
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 23, 2009 -- Here’s yet another reason to bone up on calcium. It may
help reduce your risk of cancer.
A new study shows that older men and women who got the most calcium from
food and supplements had a 16% lower risk of colorectal and other cancers of
the digestive system than those who got the least calcium.
Among women, those cancer-fighting benefits were even stronger. Women who
got the most calcium from food and supplements had a lower risk of all cancer
and a 23% lower risk of cancers of the digestive system than those who got the
Calcium is already known to boost bone health, but researchers say previous
studies on calcium’s effect on cancer have produced mixed results.
“Our study suggests that calcium intake is associated with a lower risk of
total cancer and cancers of the digestive system, especially colorectal
cancer,” write researcher Yikyung Park, ScD, of the National Cancer Institute
and colleagues in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Calcium May Lower Cancer Risk
The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day for
men and women over age 50. Dietary guidelines also call for adults to eat three
cups of fat-free or low-fat dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese to
meet their daily calcium needs.
One 8-ounce serving of skim milk or yogurt contains about 300 milligrams of
calcium. Other nondairy sources of calcium include beans, broccoli, spinach,
and other green, leafy vegetables.
In the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 300,000 men and 200,000
women 50 to 71 who participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet
and Health Study. Participants answered a questionnaire about the foods and
supplements they ate, and cancer rates were linked through state cancer
registries over seven years of follow up.
The results showed that total calcium intake was not associated with a lower
risk of cancer in general in men, but women who got up to 1,300 milligrams of
calcium per day had a lower risk of cancer overall.
However, total calcium intake from both food and supplements was linked to a
lower risk of colorectal cancer and other cancers of the digestive system in
both men and women.
Men who got the highest levels of total calcium per day through food and
supplements had a 16% lower risk of these cancers than those who got the least
amount per day. Women who get the most calcium per day had a 23% lower risk
than those with the least reported intake per day.
Researchers conclude that "our findings suggest that calcium intake
consistent with current recommendations is associated with a lower risk of
total cancer in women and cancers of the digestive system, especially
colorectal cancer, in both men and women."