February 24, 2009

Calcium May Decrease Cancer Risk In Senior Citizens

A U.S. study published on Monday found that diets rich in calcium might help protect against some cancers, Reuters reported.

The benefits were mostly associated with foods high in calcium, rather than calcium tablets, researchers said.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute tracked nearly half a million older men and women and found that those with the highest calcium intake from dairy and other foods and from calcium supplements had the lowest rates of colorectal cancer.

"Women in the highest fifth of calcium consumption had a 28 percent lower risk for colorectal cancer compared to those with the lowest fifth of calcium intake," said Yikyung Park of the NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study showed that men in the highest fifth had a 21 percent lower risk for colorectal cancer than those with the lower intake.

The study followed AARP members, who were between 50 and 71 years old, for seven years. The people in the study reported extensively on what they ate and what dietary supplements they took.

A total of 36,965 men and 16,605 women were later diagnosed with cancer. There were more than 10 different kinds of cancer, the most common being prostate, breast, lung and colorectal.

Park, whose findings appear in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, said that calcium from diet and from supplements reduced the risk of colorectal cancer.

Those who consumed the most calcium had the lowest chances of getting colon cancer.

Men who got the most calcium from food were about 30 percent less likely to get cancer of the esophagus, about 20 percent less likely to get head and neck cancer and 16 percent less likely to get colon cancer, when compared to men who got low amounts of calcium.

Women who got the most food-based calcium were 28 percent less likely to get colon cancer than low-calcium women.

Calcium may reduce abnormal growth in cells in the gastrointestinal tract and may help reduce damage to the mucous membrane in the large intestine, researchers said.

The findings offered the strongest evidence yet that folic acid and B vitamin supplements might prevent age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in the elderly, according to William Christen of Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Dr. Adit Ginde of the University of Colorado, Denver, and one of the researchers involved in the study, said in a statement that the findings support an important role for vitamin D in prevention of common respiratory infections, such as colds and the flu."

He added that many people with common lung diseases, such as asthma or emphysema, might be particularly susceptible to respiratory infections from vitamin D deficiency.


On the Net: