The results of three small clinical trials examining the effect of calcium carbonate supplementation on the proliferation cytokinetics of the rectal epithelium in subjects with a current history of sporadic adenoma are reported. In six subjects, a daily administration of 1500 mg of calcium carbonate for 90 days failed to significantly suppress thymidine labeling in normal-appearing mucosa of the rectum. However, a daily dose of 2000 mg of calcium significantly (P = 0.008) altered mucosal proliferation in a second set of six subjects after a 30-day trial. Finally, a placebo-controlled trial of calcium (2000 mg) was conducted in which 20 subjects were randomized to groups receiving a 4-week intervention with calcium (or placebo), followed by the alternative treatment (placebo or calcium). The results of the study show a marked suppression of rectal proliferation during the calcium phase of the study but not during the placebo phase. This study adds to accumulating evidence showing that calcium supplementation regulates the proliferative behavior of colonic epithelium in the individual at high risk for colon cancer. Longer term trials of calcium supplementation will ascertain whether a continuing benefit from increasing dietary calcium translates into inhibition of adenoma recurrence.
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