How Milk May Affect Cancers - dummies

By Suzanne Havala Hobbs

It isn’t proven that eliminating milk products from your diet will prevent cancer, but some people choose to avoid dairy products to improve their health even though a proven cause-and-effect relationship doesn’t necessarily exist between their condition and the consumption of dairy products.

Basically, these folks suspect that dairy products simply may be related to their problem. If they eliminate dairy and their condition improves — great! They have nothing to lose by trying, because humans just don’t require milk from a cow. Ovarian and prostate cancer are two of the health issues that might improve by going dairy-free.

Ovarian cancer and milk products

Some scientists are pursuing research examining a potential link between high intakes of lactose — the amount found in three cups of milk per day — and increased risk of ovarian cancer. More research is needed before conclusions can be drawn. However, an analysis of 500,000 women found that those with high intakes of lactose had higher risks of ovarian cancer when compared to women with lower lactose intakes. The scientists found no association between overall intakes of milk or dairy products and risk of ovarian cancer, however.

One theory as to how the lactose-ovarian cancer connection may work pertains to the role of a byproduct of lactose digestion. When lactose is digested, it’s broken down into a smaller sugar, galactose. Some scientists believe that high levels of galactose may damage the ovaries and lead to ovarian cancer. Other researchers have suggested that processing cow’s milk at dairy plants may alter the hormones in milk in a way that increases the risk of ovarian and other hormone-related cancers.

Milk and prostate cancer

Research suggests a link between milk consumption and increased risk for prostate cancer. A Harvard study of male health professionals who drank two or more glasses of milk per day yielded findings that suggest relatively high intakes of milk and/or calcium may be related to higher risks of advanced or fatal cases of prostate cancer. Going dairy-free may reduce this risk.