Women's health

Vitamin and calcium pills may cut risk of breast cancer

Helps in DNA repair

Taking vitamin and calcium supplements may cut the risk of breast cancer by a third, say US researchers.

A study of more than 700 women found that taking vitamin supplements appeared to cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 30 per cent.

And taking calcium supplements reduced a woman's chances of developing the disease by 40 per cent.

Scientists from The Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico said that the supplements are thought to help DNA repair mechanisms, a complex biological process involving over 200 proteins which, if disrupted, can lead to cancer causing mutations.

Commenting on the research, Professor Jaime Matta said: "It is not an immediate effect. You don't take a vitamin today and your breast cancer risk is reduced tomorrow. However, we did see a long-term effect in terms of breast cancer reduction.

"We're not talking about mega doses of these vitamins and calcium supplements, so this is definitely one way to reduce risk," he added.

The research was presented at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held in Washington DC.

The study also found that women were more likely to have breast cancer if they were older, had a family history of breast cancer, had no history of breastfeeding and had lower DNA repair capacity.

Past research has suggested that foods rich in calcium and vitamin D may have a protective effect against breast cancer in women.

Dr Caroline Hacker, Policy Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer said more research is needed:

"Although these results are of interest, this is early stage research and is a small study using cells taken from a specific population of women.

"More research is needed to find out exactly how vitamins and calcium supplements can influence the chance of getting breast cancer. Due to the wide variety of foods we all eat, it's difficult to tell what impact one particular food supplement can have on our health.

"Breakthrough Breast Cancer recommends that to reduce their risk of breast cancer, all women maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol consumption and exercise regularly."

This article was published on Mon 19 April 2010

Image © Skogas - Fotolia.com

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