Does increased intake of calcium from dairy products increase the risk of prostate cancer?




Am J Clin Nutr

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Consumer Data: Calcium Lycopene Prostate Cancer
Professional Data: Calcium Lycopene Prostate Cancer


With the exception of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in men. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer-related death.1 According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 48, No. 11, each year, of the168,000 men diagnosed with this form of cancer, approximately 32,000 men die. It is primarily diagnosed in men over 65, although it may begin much earlier. Since it is a very slow growing form of cancer, it may go undetected in the early stages. Prostate cancer often metastasizes to other tissues, including the brain, lungs, lymph nodes, and bones. Early detection is critical in order to increase the chances for survival.

There has been a great deal of research into all aspects of prostate cancer over the past few years including the results of lifestyle, diet, and dietary supplementation on the disease and on the progression of the disease. In an effort to further understand the role that diet plays in prostate cancer, researchers from several medical schools primarily located in the northeast decided to take an in-depth look at the role of specific nutrients. These researchers have concluded an 11 year study designed to determine if there is a relationship between elevated calcium intake, primarily from dairy sources, and the risk of prostate cancer.

During this 11 year period, researchers followed 20,885 male physicians, tracking their use of five specific dairy products. Calcium intake levels were then calculated and the estimated risk was determined using logistic regression. Present dietary guidelines for calcium for adults is 1,000 mg per day from all sources with dairy products being one of the most commonly known and used sources. At the end of the 11 year period, researchers had documented 1,012 cases of prostate cancer out of the original 20,885 men who participated. Results of this comprehensive study indicated that men consuming 150mg or less calcium each day from dairy sources had a lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those consuming more than 600mg per day. Those with the higher levels of dairy/calcium intake showed a 32% higher risk of developing the disease.2

The study did not evaluate a relationship between the supplemental use of calcium and prostate cancer or even calcium derived from other food sources, but rather focused only on the dairy sources. Additional research will need to be done to determine what relationship, if any supplemental calcium might have to prostate cancer.


1. Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, The Public Health Perspective, 2001.
2. Chan JM. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians' Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. Oct 2001;74(4):549-54.