Calcium doesn’t just build strong bones, it may fight cancer too, a study said. Researchers at the Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico reported that women who took calcium had a 40 per cent lower risk of getting breast cancer, while those getting multivitamins showed a 30 per cent reduction in risk. The new findings, from a study of 744 women, contradict results of a December ’08 trial that showed no reduction in cancer risk from vitamin supplements.
The scientists attributed the calcium benefit to its effect on DNA repair capacity — the biological process by which cells patch up damaged DNA that may cause cancer. The report suggests women boost their defenses with dietary changes and long-term use of supplements. “We can now monitor breast-cancer risk using DNA repair capacity,” said Manuel Bayona, an author of the paper. “All women should take vitamins and supplements.”
Just as doctors track patients’ cholesterol and modify it with changes in diet or drugs, Bayona said, they could use blood tests to monitor the DNA repair ability of women at elevated risk for breast cancer and tweak it using dietary supplements. Previous studies have demonstrated calcium’s cancer-blocking benefit without explaining the mechanism of action.