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Does Calcium Prevent Bone Metastasis?
By Lydia Fong
We already know that eating foods high in calcium can help prevent osteoporosis. Now a new study shows that this diet may keep breast cancer from spreading to the bones—as happens in 70 percent of patients whose treatment has failed.
“These results could have implications for patients with breast cancer bone metastases or those who are at high risk for developing metastatic disease,” reports Colin R. Dunstan, Ph.D., a principal research fellow at the ANZAC Research Institute in Sydney, Australia, and co-author of the study published in the October 1 issue of Cancer Research. Scientists at ANZAC studied two groups of female mice: one group was fed a diet low in calcium, the other a diet with normal calcium content. The researchers then injected breast cancer cells into the animals’ tibias (shin bones). In just 17 days the mice on the low-calcium regimen had larger tumors, more cancer cell proliferation and more bone destruction than those in the second group.
Although scientists don’t yet know why, bone breakdown stimulates tumor growth, which in turn increases bone destruction. Clinical trials to determine whether calcium affects the spread of breast cancer in humans are the next step.