A recent study from Finland found that those who consumed the most milk were 54% less likely to develop colon cancer, and those who consumed the highest percentage of milk products were 63% less likely to develop the cancer. However the researchers say it soon to make recommendations regarding milk consumption and colon cancer risk. More studies are needed to demonstrate the importance of dietary factors including milk products in protecting from colon cancer.
The investigators found that lactose, the type of sugar in dairy products, may be responsible for the protective effect by encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria that could inhibit cancer. Vitamin D and calcium, nutrients plentiful in dairy products, were not associated with colon cancer risk.
The researchers point to several limitations of their study. Overall, there was little difference in the amounts of these foods consumed by individuals who developed cancer and those who remained cancer-free. Dietary habits could have changed during the study period, and interviews conducted at the beginning of the study did not address such topics as aspirin use, alcohol consumption and exercise habits, all of which can influence the development of colorectal cancer.
Cheese and buttermilk appeared to raise the risk of colorectal cancers, although the reasons why are not clear. The authors suggest that lifestyle factors associated with heavy consumption of these products may be responsible, or that these foods may contain a compound that contributes to the development of colorectal cancers.
These findings point to a potential association between higher milk consumption and lower risk of cancer of the colon.
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