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Calcium Linked to Colon Cancer Prevention

by Dr. Jamesh Meschino on

December 15, 2023 in

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Source: International Journal of Cancer (2014)
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update (July 12, 2017)

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death when you combine the statistics for men and women. Studies in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggest that 70-90% of colon cancer cases can be prevented through prudent dietary and lifestyle practices. One of the factors that appear to be linked to colon cancer prevention is the optimal intake of calcium from day to day. 

In fact, over the past 25 to 30 years, studies have suggested that calcium may confer protection against colorectal cancer. Animal studies have shown this effect, and many population studies (epidemiological studies) have shown a strong correlation between higher calcium intake and lower incidence of colorectal cancer.

What does meta-analysis reveal on calcium intake and colon cancer prevention ? 

A meta-analysis published in 2014 in the International Journal of Cancer has provided additional evidence that higher calcium intake, including calcium supplements, is associated with a significant reduction in risk of colorectal cancer. The meta-analysis combined the data from 15 various human studies. 

The data showed that for every 300 mg increase in calcium from supplements there was an associated 9% reduction in risk of colorectal cancer and that for every 300 mg increase in total calcium (combination of food and supplements) there was an associated reduction in risk of 8%. This means that a calcium intake of 1200 mg per day, which is what you should be shooting for to optimize bone density and prevent osteoporosis), is also associated with colon cancer prevention by 32-36%. That is a significant reduction in risk. Unfortunately, most people have a calcium intake that is much lower than that (500-800 mg per day).

How does calcium reduce colon cancer risk?

Studies suggest that calcium slows down the rate of cell division of cells that line the colon. When you slow down cell division, cells tend to make fewer genetic mistakes that lead to cancer development. Also, calcium binds to bile acids in the gut, which prevents their conversion into cancer-causing secondary sterols (lithocholic and deoxycholic acids).

So, the take-home message appears to be to ensure that you are getting sufficient calcium-rich foods each day. And if necessary, use a supplement containing additional calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D works with calcium for support but is also linked to colon cancer prevention.

I’ve included a list of healthy, calcium containing foods below, showing that number of milligrams of calcium available in a standard serving size. I think you’ll find it to be a good reference.

I also included the scientific reference below for the meta-analysis study.

Sources of Calcium From Common Healthy Foods

FoodPortion SizeAmount of Calcium (mg)
Low Fat Yogurt1 cup415
Low Fat Milk (nonfat,1%)I cup300
Low Fat Cottage Cheese½ cup75
Sardines with bones3 oz370
Salmon with bones (canned)3 oz165
Processed Tofu with calcium sulfate4 oz145
Canned Shrimp3 oz100
Cooked Lentils1 cup75
Chicken Breast3 oz10
Tuna3 oz5
Collard Greens½ cup180
Spinach½ cup85
Stalk of Broccoli1 medium70
OrangeI medium55
Green Beans½ cup30
Lettuce½ head15
Orange Juice½ cup10
Apple1 medium10
Whole Wheat Bread1 slice20
Cooked Spaghetti1 cup15
Cooked Rice½ cup10
Apricots, raw, dried4-6 halves24
Dates3-422
Figs Canned335
Figs Dried256
GrapefruitI medium40
Prunes, dried raw527
Raisins¼ cup31
Raspberries2/3 cup40
Strawberries1 cup42
Roasted Almonds1 oz80
Kale½ cup47
Baked Beans½ cup78
White Beans½ cup96
Dry-roasted soybean nuts½ cup232

 Reference:

  1. Keum N, Aune D, Greenwood D.C., Ju W, Giovannucci E.L. Calcium intake and colorectal cancer risk: Dose-response meta-analysis of prospective observational studies. International J Cancer (2014) 135 (8): 1940-1948)

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great!

Dr. James Meschino

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