Study of the Day: Milk Increases the Risk for Prostate Cancer

A genetic allele associated with high calcium absorption that is most common among African-American men is proving troublesome

main Cordey 2791096618_01fedc85a0_o.jpg

PROBLEM: According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 240,000 American men are diagnosed annually with prostate cancer. The statistics are worse for African-Americans, as this ailment is reportedly 36 percent more prevalent among them than among non-Hispanic whites. High dietary intake of calcium has also been linked to this disease but it's unclear why this is so.

METHODOLOGY: Researchers studied 783 African-American men living in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, about two-thirds of whom were diagnosed with prostate cancer. They looked into the effects of genotype, calcium intake, and diet-gene interactions. More precisely, the team targeted a genetic allele associated with calcium absorption that is most common among populations of African origin.

RESULTS: Participants who reported the highest calcium intake were two times more likely to have localized and advanced prostate cancer than those who reported the lowest. On the other hand, men with a genotype associated with poor calcium absorption were almost 60 percent less likely to have been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer than men who genetically were the best absorbers of calcium. Moreover, among men with calcium intake below the average, poor calcium absorbers had a 50 percent decreased risk of having advanced prostate cancer than the best absorbers.

CONCLUSION: A diet high in calcium may cause prostate cancer among African-American men who are predisposed to absorbing this mineral especially well.

SOURCE: The full study, "Calcium Intake and Prostate Cancer Among African Americans: Effect Modification by Vitamin D Receptor Calcium Absorption Genotype," is published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Image: Cordey/Flickr.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in Health

Just In