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Does dietary calcium interact with dietary fiber against colorectal cancer? A case–control study in Central Europe

Aleksander Galas*, Malgorzata Augustyniak and Elzbieta Sochacka-Tatara

Author affiliations

Department of Epidemiology, Chair of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Jagiellonian University – Medical College, Kopernika St 7a, Krakow 31-034, Poland

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:134  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-134

Published: 4 October 2013



An unfavorable trend of increasing rates of colorectal cancer has been observed across modern societies. In general, dietary factors are understood to be responsible for up to 70% of the disease’s incidence, though there are still many inconsistencies regarding the impact of specific dietary items. Among the dietary minerals, calcium intake may play a crucial role in the prevention. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of intake of higher levels of dietary calcium on the risk of developing of colorectal cancer, and to evaluate dose dependent effect and to investigate possible effect modification.


A hospital based case–control study of 1556 patients (703 histologically confirmed colon and rectal incident cases and 853 hospital-based controls) was performed between 2000–2012 in Krakow, Poland. The 148-item semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire to assess dietary habits and level of nutrients intake was used. Data regarding possible covariates was also collected.


After adjustment for age, gender, education, consumption of fruits, raw and cooked vegetables, fish, and alcohol, as well as for intake of fiber, vitamin C, dietary iron, lifetime recreational physical activity, BMI, smoking status, and taking mineral supplements, an increase in the consumption of calcium was associated with the decrease of colon cancer risk (OR = 0.93, 95% CI: 0.89-0.98 for every 100 mg Ca/day increase). Subjects consumed >1000 mg/day showed 46% decrease of colon cancer risk (OR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.35-0.83). The effect of dietary calcium was modified by dietary fiber (p for interaction =0.015). Finally, consistent decrease of colon cancer risk was observed across increasing levels of dietary calcium and fiber intake. These relationships were not proved for rectal cancer.


The study confirmed the effect of high doses of dietary calcium against the risk of colon cancer development. This relationship was observed across different levels of dietary fiber, and the beneficial effect of dietary calcium depended on the level of dietary fiber suggesting modification effect of calcium and fiber. Further efforts are needed to confirm this association, and also across higher levels of dietary fiber intake.

Colorectal cancer; Diet; Calcium; Fiber; Effect modification; Case–control study