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Meta-analysis links greater calcium intake to lower colorectal cancer risk

05.16.2014

The results of a dose-response meta-analysis published online on March 13, 2014 in the International Journal of Cancer support a reduced risk of colorectal cancer among men and women with a higher intake of calcium.

Edward L. Giovannucci, ScD, of Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues selected 21 publications reporting 20 prospective observational studies for their analysis. Analysis of overall intake of calcium, which involved studies that included a total of 1,415,597 participants among whom 12,305 cases of colorectal cancer occurred, uncovered an 8% lower risk of the disease in association with each 300 milligram per day increase in calcium intake. Those whose consumption of calcium averaged 1,000 milligrams per day (mg/day) had an 18% lower risk of the disease compared to those whose intake was 250 mg and among those whose intake was 1,750 mg, the risk was 26% lower.

Analysis of studies that examined supplemental calcium, which included 8,839 colorectal cancer cases among 920,837 subjects, revealed a 9% lower risk of the disease in association with each 300 mg/day increase.

The authors remark that calcium supplement users have a total intake of calcium that averages 1,000 mg per day in contrast with 650 mg daily among nonusers. "As the benefit of calcium intake on colorectal cancer is expected to continue beyond 1000 mg/day, not only nonsupplement users but also supplement users may further reduce their colorectal cancer risk through additional calcium intake," they write.

"While dairy products, especially milk, are the major sources of calcium in many countries, they are a substantial source of calories and contain potentially harmful factors," the authors note. "Given that all the studies on calcium supplements were from the U.S., future studies should evaluate the effect of supplementary calcium intake on colorectal cancer risk in diverse populations. Randomized trials of calcium supplements with at least 10 years of follow-up are warranted to confirm a role of calcium supplements as a chemopreventive agent against colorectal cancer."

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