How to live longer: The mineral supplement associated with a 30% reduced risk of cancer

Gloria Hunniford talks about her daughter's battle with cancer

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Publishing their data in the National Cancer Institute journal, the ACS found calcium taken in supplement form could reduce the risk of colon (bowel) cancer by over 30 percent.

Bowel cancer is one of the four most common cancers in the UK alongside breast, lung, and prostate cancer. The disease accounts for 11 percent of all new cancer cases in the UK, making it the fourth most common in the country.

The authors from the ACS study meanwhile wrote: “When calcium from the diet was analysed by itself, no reduction in colorectal cancer risk was found. However, the use of calcium supplements in any amount was associated with reduced risk. This association was strongest (a 31 percent reduction in risk) for people who took calcium supplements of 500 mg per day or more.”

While this data is promising, the authors concede that “the exact mechanism by which calcium may help reduce the risk of cancer is unclear” and not every study has reached the same conclusion.

In 2013, a study published by the University of Auckland concluded that “allocation to Ca (calcium) did not alter the risk of total cancer, colorectal (bowel) cancer, breast cancer, or cancer-related mortality”.

However, this study did find that calcium could reduce the risk of prostate cancer, the most common form of the condition in men.

While these studies differ in their conclusions, it is important to note the time gap between the two and acknowledge there are a range of factors which could have led to their respective conclusions.

What they do highlight is the potential benefit of supplements with regard to cancer risk, particularly bowel cancer.

Symptoms of the condition include:
• A change in bowel habit
• Blood in poo
• Abdominal pain.

What other uses does calcium have?

While the jury is out on whether calcium supplements can reduce the risk of bowel cancer, in other more natural forms, it plays several vital roles.

The most notably and well known is in helping to build and keep teeth healthy alongside regulating muscle contractions and making sure blood clots form normally.

Calcium can be found in a range of common foods such as:
• Milk, cheese, and other dairy
• Green leafy vegetables
• Soya drinks
• Bread and produce made with fortified flower
• Sardines and pilchards.

The NHS say adults between the ages of 19 and 64 need about 700mg of calcium a day.

What happens if someone doesn’t get enough calcium?

A lack of calcium can be problematic for both adults and children. In adults it can cause a condition known as osteoporosis in later life, while in children it causes rickets.

Rickets is a condition where bone development in children is affected and causes bone pain, soft bones, and poor growth.

Alongside this, it can also lead to bone deformities and dental problems such as weak enamel and increased risk of cavities.

Meanwhile, osteoporosis is a common condition in older people and involves the weakening of bones; developing slowly over several years, the condition is often only diagnosed after a fall.

What happens if someone takes too much calcium?

While not enough calcium can cause health issues, so too can taking too much calcium; side effects of a calcium overdose include stomach pain and diarrhoea.

However, this is only in cases where someone consumes doses of 1,500mg or above; most people should be able to get the calcium they need from their diet.

Should someone experience a calcium deficiency and for dietary reasons be unable to consume calcium through traditional sources, supplementation may be recommended.

However, these should be taken with caution so as to avoid overdosing on the mineral and subsequent uncomfortable side effects.

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