Milk may not be as good as we thought – research has found that drinking dairy milk may increase your breast cancer risk…

This is according to a new study from the Loma Linda University Health.

Researchers found that even relatively moderate amounts of dairy milk consumption can increase women’s risk of breast cancer.

Consuming as little as 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dairy milk per day was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer of 30%,” says first author of the paper, Gary E. Fraser, MBChB, PhD, “By drinking up to one cup per day, the associated risk went up to 50%, and for those drinking two to three cups per day, the risk increased further to 70% to 80%.”

Current US dietary guidelines recommend three cups of milk per day.

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“Evidence from this study suggests that people should view that recommendation with caution,” says Fraser.

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Study based on over 50 000 women

Researchers evaluated the dietary intakes of nearly 53 000 North American women for nearly eight years.

Dietary intakes were estimated from food frequency questionnaires (FFQ), also repeated 24-hour recalls, and a baseline questionnaire had questions about demographics, family history of breast cancer, physical activity, alcohol consumption, hormonal and other medication use, breast cancer screening, and reproductive and gynaecological history.

By the end of the study period, there were 1 057 new breast cancer cases during follow-up.

No clear associations were found between soy products and breast cancer, independent of dairy. But, when compared to low or no milk consumption, higher intakes of dairy calories and dairy milk were associated with greater risk of breast cancer, independent of soy intake.

Fraser notes that the results had minimal variation when comparing intake of full fat versus reduced or non-fat milk; there were no important associations noted with cheese and yoghurt.

“Dairy foods, especially milk, were associated with increased risk, and the data predicted a marked reduction in risk associated with substituting soymilk for dairy milk. This raises the possibility that dairy-alternate milk may be an optimal choice,” says Fraser.

Vegans experience less breast cancer

A hazardous effect of dairy is consistent with the recent AHS-2 report suggesting that vegans but not lacto-ovo-vegetarians experienced less breast cancer than non-vegetarians.

What is the link between dairy and breast cancer?

Fraser says that the possible reasons for the link between breast cancer and dairy milk may be the sex hormone content of dairy milk since the cows are of course lactating and about 75% of the dairy herd are pregnant.

Breast cancer in women is a hormone-responsive cancer.

Further, intake of dairy and other animal proteins in some reports is also associated with higher blood levels of a hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is thought to promote certain cancers.

Dairy milk does have some positive nutritional qualities,” says Fraser, “but these need to be balanced against other possible, less helpful effects. This work suggests the urgent need for further research.”

Source: Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Centre via

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