High milk intake may raise ovarian cancer risk

August 17, 2005 in Cancer Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News

High milk intake may raise ovarian cancer risk

An analysis of 21 studies that investigated the link between ovarian cancer and the consumption of milk products and lactose provides some support for the notion that a high intake is associated with increased ovarian cancer risk. Milk and milk products are rich in a number of nutrients. However, lactose (milk sugar) might be the factor in milk that possibly increases the risk of ovarian cancer.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm point out that studies that examined the association between lactose and dairy food consumption and ovarian cancer risk have yielded conflicting results. The researchers therefore summarized the available literature on this topic.

The findings of 18 case-control studies (studies in which diet was assessed after the cancer diagnosis) differed, and, except for whole milk, do not provide evidence of positive associations between dairy food and lactose intakes with risk of ovarian cancer. In contrast, the three prospective cohort studies (studies in which diet was assessed before the cancer diagnosis) were consistent and show significant positive associations between intakes of total dairy foods, low-fat milk, and lactose and risk of ovarian cancer. For a daily increase of 10 grams in lactose intake -- the amount in roughly one glass of milk -- the risk of ovarian cancer increases by 13 percent.

Although milk consumption might increase the risk of ovarian cancer, consumption of milk has other potential benefits. There is strong evidence that high consumption of milk may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. There is also some evidence that consumption of low-fat dairy foods may lower the risk of other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Thus, the researchers would not recommend women to stop drinking milk.

The researcher concluded, "In the future, when we know more about possible interactions between milk consumption and genetic susceptibility, it might be that some women should not drink milk because of a high risk of developing ovarian cancer."

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