We examined whether hyperproliferation of colonic crypt epithelium during cancer induction by N-methyl-N-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG), in rats on a low fat and calcium diet could be reduced by added calcium p.o. From the age of 4 weeks, 104 male Sprague-Dawley rats received a low fat (3.5%), low calcium (0.05% calcium ion), and low vitamin D (0.4 IU/g) diet. Sixty-four also had calcium salts, derived from either calcium lactate or solubilized calcium carbonate, added to their drinking water; therefore their total calcium intake was about 1% of daily diet. At age 12 weeks the rats were divided into 4 treatment groups: 8 rats, not receiving added calcium, had rectal saline instillations weekly (saline control group) and were sacrificed after a further 28 weeks; 3 groups of 32 rats each received intrarectal MNNG (1.5 mg) weekly. One group, not receiving added calcium, was the MNNG control group; while the second group also received added calcium lactate, and the third group received calcium carbonate. Groups of 24 were sacrificed periodically until 28 weeks of treatment. Rats were sacrificed and epithelial proliferation was estimated, 1 week after the last intrarectal instillation, by in vivo labeling with tritiated thymidine and measuring the ratio of labeled to total colonic crypt epithelial cells. The mean labeling index of the MNNG treated and added calcium groups were significantly higher (8.7–9.5%) than that of the saline controls (2.8%) only at week 28; however, it was then still significantly less than that of the MNNG controls not having added calcium (17.9%). Hyperproliferation, during induction of colonic cancer by MNNG in rats on a low calcium diet, can be reduced by a calcium enriched diet even in the presence of a low fat intake.

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Supported by a grant from the Chief Scientist of the Department of Health.

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