Calcium Raises Cancer Risk for Some Black Men

A new study shows that African-American men who absorb calcium well and have a high calcium intake may be nearly two times more likely to develop prostate cancer.

Posted: 09/23/2011 11:50 AM EDT
Calcium absorbtion increases risk of prostate cancer for black men

African-American men with high calcium intake and are genetically good absorbers of the nutrient are at a higher risk for localized and advanced prostate cancer, according to a new study.

The gene-based research focused on data collected from 783 African-American men in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, 533 of whom were diagnosed with prostate cancer. After studying the effects of genotype, calcium intake and diet-gene interactions on the men’s health, they found that those men with high calcium intake and whose bodies absorb calcium well are two times as likely to develop advanced prostate cancer as those with a lower intake.

“High dietary intake of calcium has long been linked to prostate cancer and this study suggests that these associations are likely to be causal,” says Sue Ann Ingles, associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California according to

The study was published online in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Authors say that although calcium is essential for bone health and appears to protect against colorectal cancer, African-Americans generally have strong and healthy bones.

Prostate cancer is 36 percent more common among African-Americans than in non-Hispanic whites. However, the authors of the study say the research provides critical insight into developing a prevention plan for African-Americans.

“We now have a better understanding of why calcium in diet may increase the risk for prostate cancer and who is at increased risk,” Gary G. Schwartz, associate professor of cancer biology and epidemiology and prevention at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center told “If our results are confirmed, it gives much better insight into the preventable causes of prostate cancer. So if I know I’m a good absorber of calcium, I may want to be careful about the use of calcium supplements.”

Overall, 240,000 men in the United States are diagnosed annually with prostate cancer and nearly 33,720 die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

(Photo: The Plain Dealer /Landov)