~ Calcium Intake Associated with Lower Colorectal Cancer Risk

The results of a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) which found that supplementation with calcium appears to offer protection against advanced colon polyps, which are a type of polyp that is strongly associated with the development of invasive colon cancer. Further evidence concerning calcium's protective benefit against colorectal cancer appeared in the July 7 2004 issue of the JNCI in which a meta-analysis of ten studies concluded that higher calcium consumption is associated with a reduced risk of the disease.

Meta-analysis Finds Increased Calcium Intake Associated with Lower Colorectal Cancer Risk

Eunyoung Cho, ScD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues analyzed ten studies involving 534,536 people, among whom 4,992 individuals were diagnosed with colorectal cancer during the follow-up periods.

The studies examined provided data on dietary consumption, including supplements. The research team found that calcium intake was inversely related to the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Participants whose calcium intake from diet was in the highest one-fifth had a 14 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than those whose intake was in the lowest fifth. When calcium from diet and supplements combined was examined, the risk of developing colorectal cancer in those whose intake was highest was 22 percent lower than that of the group consuming the least.

Of all food sources of calcium, only milk consumption was similarly inversely associated with colorectal cancer risk. The relative risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer was lowest for those whose vitamin D and total calcium intake were in the highest third of participants compared to the lowest third.

The authors conclude that increasing calcium to 1000 milligrams per day or greater could result in 10 percent fewer cases of colorectal cancer among men, and 15 percent fewer cases in women. They write, "These data, in combination with the previous experimental studies documenting a salutary effect of calcium supplementation on colonic epithelial cell turnover and colorectal adenoma recurrence, support the concept that moderate milk and calcium intake reduces the risk of colorectal cancer."

Prior research uncovered the associated between taking calcium supplements and a lower risk of all types of colon polyps.

Nine hundred thirty participants in the Calcium Polyp Prevention Study were assigned 1200 milligrams calcium carbonate per day or a placebo, and were scheduled for colonoscopies one year and four years after their initial examination. Participants had a history of having at least one colon polyp surgically removed within three months of the study’s onset. Nine hundred thirteen participants completed at least one of the follow-up colonoscopies within four years. Of these, 30.6 percent had at least one hyperplastic polyp, which have no potential for malignancy, and 41.8 had at least one tubular polyp, which have a low malignancy potential. Advanced adenomas occurred in 12.3 percent of the subjects, and large adenomas in 6 percent.

Calcium supplementation was associated with a decrease in all types of polyps, however its protective effect was the greatest for advanced polyps. The protective effect of calcium appeared to be the strongest in individuals consuming a high fiber and low fat diet, but this finding was not determined to be statistically significant.

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