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A prospective cohort study of intake of calcium, vitamin D, and other micronutrients in relation to incidence of rectal cancer among postmenopausal women.

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Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55454-1015, USA.


To investigate whether high intakes of calcium and other micronutrients (carotene, retinol, and vitamins C, D, and E) are related to reduced risks of rectal cancer, we analyzed data from a large cohort study of postmenopausal Iowa women who responded to a mailed survey in 1986. After 9 years of follow-up, 144 incident rectal cancer cases were ascertained among the 34,702 women at risk. Intake levels of micronutrients at baseline were derived from self-reported data on vitamin supplements and dietary intake of 127 foods included in a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire. After adjustment for total energy intake and other potential confounding factors, a dose-response inverse association was observed between total calcium intake and the risk of rectal cancer: adjusted relative risks (RRs) were 1.00, 0.90, and 0.59 (trend test, P = 0.02) from the lowest to the highest calcium intake tertiles. High intakes of dietary and supplement calcium were both related to a slightly reduced risk of rectal cancer, but neither of the trend tests was statistically significant. Reduced risks of rectal cancer were also observed for high intake of carotene and vitamins A, C, and D, although none of the associations were statistically significant. For vitamin D, the adjusted RRs were 1.00, 0.71, and 0.76 (trend test, P = 0.20) for increasing intake tertiles. Compared with women who consumed low levels of both total calcium and vitamin D, those in the highest intake group of both nutrients were at a 45% reduced risk of rectal cancer (RR, 0.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.32-0.93). This study supports the hypothesis that high intake of calcium and possibly other micronutrients may be beneficial in the prevention of rectal cancer.

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