The Singapore Chinese Health Study is providing a wealth of information for cancer epidemiologists interested in diet and cancer risk, including Dr. Lesley Butler, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. Dr. Butler has had two studies published recently; one in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and one in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The study published in Cancer Research showed that among Chinese men, calcium consumption increased the risk of prostate cancer. Using data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, researchers showed a 25 percent increased risk of prostate cancer when comparing those who consumed, on average, 659 mg vs. 211 mg of total calcium a day. The risk was twice as high in leaner men, and researchers suggest it may be that calcium is absorbed more so in smaller individuals. Scientists are still investigating why there is a link between calcium consumption and higher incidence of prostate cancer.
“Our results support the notion that calcium plays a risk in enhancing the role of prostate cancer development,” said Dr. Butler. “This study is the first to report an association at such low levels and among primarily non-dairy foods.”
In the study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Butler and her colleagues described a “decreasing breast cancer risk with increasing intake of a vegetable-fruit-soy dietary pattern” in the 34,000 Chinese women studied. Data showed that the greater the intake of vegetables, fruits and soy, the lower the breast cancer risk among post-menopausal women.
The message American women can take from the study? "Eating a diverse diet that can be characterized as having a lot of fruits and vegetables, and possibly adding soy also, would be beneficial,” said Dr. Butler
Dr. Butler joined the Singapore Chinese Health Study in 2001, which studies a cohort of 63,000 men and women, tracking diet as well as the development of cancers. The Singapore cohort was established between 1993 and 1998, with the collection of questionnaire data and biologic specimens.
“This is a fascinating study population, given that Singapore has gone through a recent, rapid transformation from a primarily agrarian society to one with Western influences. Thus, the diet of the study population represents both sides of the spectrum, from traditional to Western dietary factors,” said Dr. Butler.