Although several epidemiological studies have investigated the association between dietary calcium intake and the risk of esophageal cancer, the results are inconsistent. This study aimed to make a comprehensive evaluation regarding the association between calcium intake and risk of esophageal cancer through a meta-analysis approach. We searched for all relevant articles from the inception to April 2017, using PUBMED, EMBASE, and Web of Knowledge. The pooled odds ratio (ORs) with the 95% confidence interval (95% CI) for the highest versus the lowest categories of calcium intake was calculated using a Mantel–Haenszel fixed-effect model. In total, 15 articles reporting 17 studies including 3396 esophageal cancer cases and 346,815 controls were selected for the meta-analysis. By comparing the highest vs. the lowest levels of dietary calcium intake, we found that dietary calcium intake was inversely associated with the risk of esophageal cancer (OR = 0.80, 95% CI: 0.71–0.91, I2
= 33.6%). The subgroup analysis indicated that the protective function of dietary calcium intake were observed in esophageal squamous cell cancer, but not in esophageal adenocarcinoma in the studies conducted in Asia, but not those in Europe and America. In conclusion, our results suggest that higher dietary calcium intake is associated with a lower risk of esophageal cancer—especially esophageal squamous cell cancer—in Asian populations, though more data from prospective cohort studies are needed.
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