Epidemiological and animal studies suggest a role for calcium in the chemoprevention of colorectal neoplasia. This study was designed to investigate whether supplemental oral calcium has a suppressant effect on colonic mucosal ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) and tyrosine kinase activities in patients with adenomatous polyps or a history of adenomatous polyps and whether this is affected by age. ODC and tyrosine kinase activities were measured in rectal mucosal biopsies of 19 male patients (age, years 46–85 years; mean, 66 years) with adenomatous polyps or a history of adenomatous polyps before and after 1 week of calcium supplementation p.o. (CaCO3; 2500 mg/day) and 2 weeks after cessation of calcium treatment. The basal rectal mucosal ODC activity of patients ≥64 years old was nearly 4-fold higher than that of patients <64 years old (P < 0.005). In patients ≥64 years old, there was a significant decrease in rectal mucosal ODC activity following 1 week of calcium p.o. compared to those age <64 years (P < 0.05). Overall tyrosine kinase activity did not differ significantly in either patient group before or after calcium supplementation p.o. However, the concentration of phosphotyrosine membrane proteins with molecular weights between 40,000 and 60,000 and between 80,000 and 100,000 were suppressed in patients age ≥64 years after 1 week of calcium treatment p.o. These patients also had a corresponding decrease in their rectal mucosal ODC activity. Alternatively, patients whose ODC was not affected by calcium showed no apparent change in the relative concentration of rectal mucosal phosphotyrosine membrane proteins. Our data indicate that there is an age-related increase in basal rectal mucosal ODC activity in patients with adenomatous polyps which can be suppressed with calcium supplementation p.o., suggesting a role for dietary calcium in the chemoprevention of colorectal neoplasia.

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Supported in part by the Veterans Administration Research Service. This paper was presented in part at the American Gastroenterological Association Meeting, San Antonio, TX, May 1990.

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