Calcium plus vitamin D supplements are often suggested for patients at risk for osteoporosis and in women undergoing breast cancer treatment, but a recent analysis published in Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology highlights the insignificant data behind this methodology.

“We evaluated clinical trial evidence for calcium and vitamin D supplementation in maintaining skeletal health of women with breast cancer,” Gary G. Schwartz, PhD, a cancer epidemiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a press release. “At the doses recommended, the data show that these supplements are inadequate to prevent loss of [bone mineral density].”

Of 16 trials, researchers found that none of them evaluated calcium plus vitamin D supplements vs. no supplements in preventing BMD loss in women with breast cancer. Additionally, researchers reported inadequacies in the prevention of BMD loss when doses of 500 mg to 1,500 mg calcium and 200 IU to 1,000 IU vitamin D per day were administered among pre- and postmenopausal women with breast cancer.

Gary G. Schwartz, PhD 

Gary G. Schwartz

However, exercise or pharmacologic interventions could prevent BMD loss in this patient population when such supplementation is not effective, researchers wrote. The researchers added that controversial literature exists regarding the risk for cardiovascular disease with the use of calcium supplements.

“The take-home message is that this very common practice of supplementation doesn’t really seem to be working,” Schwartz said. “Future trials are needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in women undergoing breast cancer therapy.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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