Role of calcium in colon cancer prevention: experimental and clinical studies

Mutat Res. 1993 Nov;290(1):87-95. doi: 10.1016/0027-5107(93)90036-f.


Many dietary factors have been studied for their potential in the chemoprevention of human colorectal cancer. From an epidemiological standpoint, there have been many studies linking calcium intake to colon cancer risk. Significant reductions in risk have been shown for the consumption of milk, dietary calcium and dairy products in general. Additionally, there have been numerous studies of calcium and cell proliferation in experimental animals. Supplemental calcium in the diet or drinking water has been reported to decrease the colonic epithelial hyperproliferation induced by bile and fatty acids, enteric resection, a nutritional stress diet, and to suppress induction of the tumor-promotion enzyme ornithine decarboxylase. Calcium has also demonstrated an inhibitory effect on experimental colon carcinogenesis. Mechanisms of calcium inhibition are still speculative, but the "calcium soaps" hypothesis, fatty acid destabilization of cellular membranes, modulation of protein kinase C and K-ras mutations are under investigation. Additionally, numerous clinical studies of calcium modulation of human colonic hyperproliferation in high-risk groups as well as chemoprevention trials of calcium supplementation are currently ongoing. Although the question of whether dietary calcium can prevent human colorectal cancer remains to be answered, the data presently available appear promising.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Diet
  • Humans


  • Calcium, Dietary