NEW YORK — Calcium not only builds strong bones, it may fight cancer, too, a study has found.
Researchers at the Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico reported that women who took calcium had a 40 percent lower risk of getting breast cancer, while those getting multivitamins showed a 30 percent reduction in risk. The new findings, from a study of 744 women, were presented yesterday at the meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington.
The data contradict results of a December 2008 trial that showed no reduction in cancer risk from vitamin supplements.
The scientists attributed the calcium benefit seen in the more recent study to its effect on what they called DNA repair capacity: the biological process by which cells patch up damaged DNA that otherwise may cause cancer. The new report suggests women may boost their cellular defenses with dietary changes and long-term use of supplements, they said.
“The importance of this finding is that now we can monitor breast-cancer risk using DNA repair capacity,’’ said Manuel Bayona, a professor at Ponce School of Medicine and an author of the paper. “We believe that all women should be taking vitamins and supplements. Now we can tell if that regimen is really doing its work in reducing the risk.’’
The study included 278 women with breast cancer and 466 healthy controls. They were given a questionnaire that included several questions about their current and past intake of specific vitamins and minerals.
A study in June 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from researchers at Creighton University School of Medicine found that women taking calcium and vitamin D showed a 60 percent reduction in cancer risk.