Dietary Supplements: Calcium and Prostate Cancer

Too little calcium can weaken bones. But too much calcium could spell trouble for the prostate.

Among 47,750 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, those who took more than 400 mg a day of calcium from a supplement had a 50 percent higher risk of dying of prostate cancer than those who took no calcium.


“We looked at calcium supplements, which allows you to separate the calcium from the dairy, and we found an increased risk of lethal disease,” says Meir Stampfer, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

However, another study looking at fatal prostate cancer didn’t see a clear link.

“And in small randomized trials giving people calcium to reduce the risk of precancerous colon polyps, they actually found a decreased risk of prostate cancer,” says Stampfer. “But those were almost all screen-detected, indolent cases, so it’s hard to know what it means.

“We went back to look at our own data, and we saw essentially the same thing—a decreased risk of low-grade, indolent disease and an increased risk of lethal cancer. So the calcium studies are difficult because there’s this potential dual effect.”

Stampfer suggests that men skip calcium supplements to play it safe unless a doctor says otherwise for a specific indication.

“People need enough to hit that sweet spot to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, but most men get enough in their diet, so I would not recommend separate calcium supplements.”

Sources: Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 15: 203, 2006; Am. J. Epidemiol. 166: 1270, 2007.


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12 Replies to “Dietary Supplements: Calcium and Prostate Cancer”

  1. I don’t take “calcium supplements” but I take “Tums” daily, often as many as 8 tablets a day which comes to about 1600 mg of calcium per day. Does this calcium count as a “calcium supplement” and therefore possibly increase my cancer risk as stated in the article?

    1. Yes. You need to find a new method to appease your stomach. Check out the over the counter products, ask the pharmacist or you doctor for ideas.

  2. It does indeed, James. Also, when taking larger amounts of calcium, you are creating an environment where Calcium competes with absorption of other similarly charged metals most importantly, Iron. Lowering your iron stores over time would also be bad, possibly leading to iron-deficiency anemia.

    I wouldn’t change my habits of supplementation over a single article, but in general, foods are better sources of nutrients time and time again.

  3. My own experience is that was able to stop use of Tums after I lost weight and this reduced the acid reflux that was the underlying cause of the need for Tums–a type of discomfort and “indigestion” during sleep.

  4. The bad effects of Calcium are reduced if taken with Magnesium (Calcium 1000 Magnesium 500) I’ve read. Don’t know about the research. In any case, if you take Tums or another calcium antacid, take magnesium with it. Or check on research done on people taking BOTH supplements.

  5. How dare you have this headline:
    Too much from supplements may increase your risk of dying from prostate cancer.
    And in the third paragraph this:
    However, another study looking at fatal prostate cancer didn’t see a clear link.
    I’m out

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