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Medical News Today (MNT)Calcium, Vitamin D May Lower Female Cancer Risk but Raise Heart Disease Risk

Balancing Act: The Dual Impact of Calcium and Vitamin D on Postmenopausal Health

Recent research underscores the complex interplay between calcium and vitamin D supplementation and health outcomes in postmenopausal women. Although offering a protective shield against cancer mortality, these supplements simultaneously pose a heightened risk for cardiovascular events. This nuanced finding from a comprehensive study conducted by the University of Arizona sheds light on the intricate balance required in managing postmenopausal health, urging a personalized approach to supplementation.

Key Points:

  • A study in Annals of Internal Medicine reveals that calcium and vitamin D supplements reduce cancer death risk by 7% but increase cardiovascular death risk by 6% in postmenopausal women.
  • Researchers observed an 11% overall reduction in total cancer risk, with significant decreases in colorectal (31%) and invasive breast cancer (19%).
  • The findings stem from a follow-up analysis of a large-scale randomized trial involving more than 36,000 postmenopausal women.
  • The study highlights the inability to distinguish between the effects of combined calcium and vitamin D supplements versus vitamin D alone, pointing to the need for future research.
  • Experts emphasize the necessity of personalized consultation with healthcare providers to weigh the benefits and risks of supplementation.
  • The recommended daily intake of calcium for women over 50 is 1,200 mg, with risks associated with intakes exceeding 1,400 mg.
  • Menopause-related estrogen reduction impacts calcium absorption and increases urinary calcium loss, heightening osteoporosis and fracture risks.
  • Although hormone replacement therapy can benefit bone health, it is not an option for women with a history of breast cancer, underscoring the importance of calcium and vitamin D in these cases.

“Every woman during this menopause transition and beyond is at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. And osteoarthritis fractures will be deadly later in life. So that’s the reason why we are very, very focused in women’s health on protecting women’s bones as they go through the midlife transition and beyond.”
– Dr. Leah Millheiser, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University in California who was not involved in the study

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