New England Journal Of Medicine Reports Calcium Supplements Help Prevent Polyp Recurrence; DMS Led Study

HANOVER, NH -- Men and women who take calcium supplements may have a lower risk of large bowel adenomas, polyps that are considered cancer precursors, reports a study led by Dartmouth Medical School and published today (Jan. 14) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The results of the clinical study demonstrate that supplementation with calcium can reduce the recurrence rate of large bowel adenomas in people with a history of these particular polyps. The findings suggest promising measures that are fairly simple and inexpensive to help prevent a relatively common cancer.

Dr. John A. Baron, professor of medicine and of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, led this multi-centered study, funded by the National Institutes of Health. Dartmouth Medical School was the coordinating center for this clinical trial, designed to assess the benefits of calcium supplementation in patients with previously documented polyps.

"Adenomas or polyps may develop into colorectal cancer. Less than one year into the study, we saw positive results from calcium -- fewer adenomas and so, less potential for cancer," said Baron.

Although most polyps in the large bowel are benign, they are thought to be precursors of most colorectal cancers and can be removed before progression to invasive cancer. Colon and rectal cancers (together often referred to as colorectal cancer) are the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., according to Baron.

The study followed 832 patients over a four-year period. Patients were randomized to take either calcium carbonate supplements (1200 milligrams of elemental calcium) or an identical-looking placebo.

As early as the first follow-up, about nine months after the beginning of the trial, the benefits of calcium were noted. Overall, there was a 19% decrease in the incidence of recurrence of one polyp and a 24% decrease in the numbe

Contact: Hali Wickner
Dartmouth Medical School

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