Associations between calcium and magnesium intake and the risk of incident oesophageal cancer: an analysis of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study prospective cohort

Br J Cancer. 2020 Jun;122(12):1857-1864. doi: 10.1038/s41416-020-0818-6. Epub 2020 Apr 3.


Background: Risk reduction through dietary modifications is an adjunct strategy for prevention of oesophageal cancer, a leading cause of cancer-related mortality and morbidity worldwide. We aimed to estimate the association between calcium and magnesium intakes and incident oesophageal cancer (OC).

Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study prospective cohort. We used multivariable Cox proportional hazard modeling to estimate the association between total intakes and incident OC overall and by histology (oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and adenocarcinoma (OAC)). Sensitivity and stratified analyses were performed.

Results: Among 536,359 included respondents, 1414 incident OCs occurred over 6.5 million person-years follow-up time. Increasing dietary calcium intake was associated with an adjusted 32-41% lower risk of OSCC compared to the lowest quartile (p-trend 0.01). There was a positive association between increasing magnesium intake and OAC risk, but only among participants with low calcium:magnesium intake ratios (p-trend 0.04). There was a significant interaction with smoking status.

Conclusions: Based on a retrospective analysis of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study prospective cohort, dietary intakes of calcium and magnesium were significantly associated with risk of OSCC and, among certain participants, OAC, respectively. If validated, these findings could inform dietary modifications among at-risk individuals. Mechanistic investigations would provide additional insight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Calcium, Dietary*
  • Diet
  • Diet Surveys
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Magnesium*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Magnesium