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Dr. Joe Wrong on This One

Once I get past his hysterical introductions, I often find something of interest in the columns of Dr. Joe Mercola. One of his many columns this week linked calcium intake to breast cancer. The title caught my eye, because of my interest in breast cancer prevention and my previous understanding that calcium was helpful not harmful.

“Breast Cancer and Heart Attacks: A Deadly Side Effect of Calcium Supplements?” was his eye-catching, hair-raising title. Much of the information in his article was valuable. He pointed out that when you take vitamin D and calcium, you need vitamin K2 to direct the calcium to the bones not the heart or tendons or kidneys.  

But the title, really?! Do calcium supplements give you breast cancer? Sloppy and irresponsible journalism is what I would call it. How many women threw out their calcium without reading the whole article?

Women with a higher bone density (one third of all the women studied) have twice the risk of breast cancer as women with lower bone density (the other two third in the study). Is this because they take calcium? Sorry Dr. Mercola, but higher bone density in the population studied was studied because it is considered to be a marker for lifetime estrogen exposure. The association is attributed to estrogen exposure not calcium intake!

As women with low bone density know, simply taking calcium does not guarantee that they will have good bone density. As most physicians know, estrogens do increase bone density, whether they are physiological, environmental or intentionally taken.

I wouldn’t get so irritated about this if the truth weren’t exactly the opposite of what Dr. Mercola describes. The most current literature review shows that vitamin D and calcium taken together seem to be protective against breast cancer! Calcium supplements reduced, let me repeat, REDUCED, the risk of breast cancer by 40 percent. The closest thing to be found that comes close to disagreeing is a study with tiny amounts of vitamin D that didn’t prove it was protective. A far cry from proving that it’s harmful.

No one gets it right all the time, and we all print things we wish we hadn’t said. I commit to doing mybest to get it right. When I print something I wish I hadn’t said, you deserve a full and honest correction. I’ll check back with Dr. Mercola and keep waiting for that correction. Let me know if you see it first.

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