Last updated on: 10/4/2008 | Author:

Are There Associations between Milk and Cancer?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Atli Arnarson, PhD, licensed nutritionist, in a June 4, 2017 article for titled “Does Dairy Cause or Prevent Cancer? An Objective Look,” wrote:

“Cancer risk is strongly affected by diet. Many studies have examined the relationship between dairy consumption and cancer. Some studies indicate that dairy may protect against cancer, while others suggest that dairy may increase cancer risk…

Colorectal Cancer Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum, the lowest parts of the digestive tract. It is one of the most common types of cancer in the world. Although the evidence is mixed, most studies indicate that eating dairy products may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer…

Prostate Cancer The prostate gland is located just below the bladder in men. Its main function is to produce prostate fluid, which is a part of semen. In Europe and North America, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. Most large studies indicate that high dairy consumption may increase the risk of prostate cancer. One Icelandic study indicates that high milk consumption during early life may increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer later in life…

Stomach Cancer Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is the fourth most common cancer in the world (24). Many major studies have found no clear association between dairy intake and stomach cancer. Possible protective milk components may include conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and certain probiotic bacteria in fermented milk products…

Breast Cancer Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Overall, the evidence indicates that dairy products have no effects on breast cancer. In fact, some studies indicate that dairy products, excluding milk, may have protective effects.”

June 4, 2017

Sayed H. Davoodi, MD, PhD, Associate Professor at the Cancer Research Center of Shahid Beheshti University (Iran), et al., in an Apr. 8, 2013 study titled “Effects of Milk and Milk Products Consumption on Cancer: A Review,” published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, wrote:

“Milk and dairy products may have both beneficial and adverse effects with regard to the risk of different cancers. The evidence indicating healthful effects of milk and milk product consumption on prevention of cancers is considerably greater than those representing harmful impacts. In fact, there is certainly no evidence that milk consumption might increase death from any condition…

Moreover, a decisive and conscientious consideration of the relevant literature reveals that the probable harmful effect of milk and dairy product consumption related to cancer is dose?dependent. Therefore, harm for normal people could only occur with absolutely excessive and indiscriminate consumption rather than regular moderate daily intake as advised by nutritionists and products that are grossly (and illegally) contaminated with environmental pollutants or certain toxicants could spell harm to human health.”

Apr. 8, 2013

PRO (yes)


Yang Yang, MD, Medical Doctor in the Department of Radiation Therapy, Zhejiang Cancer Hospital (China), et al., in a Feb. 15, 2016 study published in Scientific Reports titled “Dairy Product, Calcium Intake and Lung Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis,” wrote:

“A total of 26 studies focused on the association between dairy consumption and lung cancer risk were identified, and an additional 6 studies that reported the calcium intake and lung cancer risk were found, including 12 cohort studies and 20 case-control studies. Among them, 12 studies were conducted in Europe, 12 in the Americas, 7 in Asia, and 1 in the South Pacific…

In this meta-analysis [of 26 studies on dairy consumption and lung cancer risk], we found that the intake of dairy products, including total dairy, milk, cheese, yogurt, or low-fat milk, as well as calcium were not significantly associated with lung cancer risk. The association remained unchanged when stratified by study design, gender, geographic area, quality and smoking status. Our results are consistent with the findings from the largest cohort study (NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study), and this null association was also found in many other types of cancer, such as gastric, bladder and pancreatic cancers.”

Feb. 15, 2016


Eunyoung Cho, ScD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, et al., completed a study titled “Dairy Foods, Calcium, and Colorectal Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of 10 Cohort Studies,” published July 7, 2004 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute:

“Studies in animals have suggested that calcium may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. We pooled the primary data from 10 cohort studies in five countries…

RESULTS: Milk intake was related to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. CONCLUSION: Higher consumption of milk and calcium is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.”

July 7, 2004


Anette HjartĂ„ker, PhD, Researcher in the Department of Biostatistics in the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the University of Oslo, et al., in their study “Childhood and Adult Milk Consumption and Risk of Premenopausal Breast Cancer in a Cohort of 48,844 Women – the Norwegian Women and Cancer Study,” published June 16, 2001 in the International Journal of Cancer, wrote:

“When combining milk consumption as a child and as an adult we observed a clear negative trend in premenopausal breast cancer incidence rate with increasing milk consumption… Compared with women who reported no or low consumption of milk on both occasions, women with moderate milk consumption had a reduced incidence rate of breast cancer of about 25%, whereas women with a high milk consumption on both occasions had a reduced incidence rate of about 50%.”

June 16, 2001


Joan Lappe, PhD, Director of Clinical and Pediatric Studies at Creighton University and co-author of a study titled “Vitamin D and Calcium Supplementation Reduces Cancer Risk: Results of a Randomized Trial,” published June 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said:

“This is the first clinical trial to show that boosting vitamin D status can affect the overall risk for cancer – a proposition that has tremendous public health potential.

By choosing vitamin-D rich foods like milk and taking a supplement Americans can help improve their vitamin D levels and potentially impact their cancer risk.”

June 2007


Peter Elwood, MD, Professor of Epidemiology at Cardiff University, in his study “Time to Value Milk,” published July 18, 2005 in the International Journal of Epidemiology, concluded:

“Both animal and human studies have suggested a reduction in colon cancer by calcium supplements and by milk. An overview of 10 cohorts studies, which together reported almost 5000 incident cases, gave evidence of a lower incidence of cancer in the distal colon with increasing intakes of milk.”

July 18, 2005


Kana Wu, MD, PhD, Research Scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, et al., in their study “Calcium Intake and Risk of Colon Cancer in Women and Men,” published Mar. 20, 2002 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, concluded:

“Higher calcium intake is associated with a reduced risk of distal colon cancer. The observed risk pattern was consistent with a threshold effect, suggesting that calcium intake beyond moderate levels may not be associated with a further risk reduction.”

Mar. 20, 2002


Bonnie Liebman, MS, Director of Nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), in a July-Aug. 2001 article on the CSPI website titled “Preventing Prostate Cancer: So Far, No Clear Answers,” wrote:

“Not all studies see a link between calcium and prostate cancer. And most men never reach the ‘too-much-calcium’ range… So it’s still safe to shoot for the latest Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs)-1,000 mg a day for men 50 or younger and 1,200 mg for men over 50.”

July-Aug. 2001


Nutra Ingredients, a website about nutrition, included an article on Mar. 9, 2002 titled “Dairy Foods Could Lower Ovarian Cancer Risk,” which stated:

“Women who consume a large amount of dairy foods may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer… Women with the highest intake of dairy products were 54 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer than those who ate the lowest amounts of dairy products…

Women who consumed the most dairy products overall, including low-fat and skimmed milk, were the least likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ethnicity had no effect on the results…

The [research] team explained that it was both the high intake of calcium and lactose that lowered the cancer risk. Lactose, the sugar in dairy foods, is thought to increase calcium absorption and promote the growth of bacteria that fight cancer-causing chemicals.”

Mar. 9, 2002


Sai Yi Pan, MD, Senior Epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada, et al., stated in their Sep. 2004 paper “A Case-Control Study of Diet and the Risk of Ovarian Cancer” in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention:

“We saw no evidence of any pattern of association of ovarian cancer risk with… any dairy product, including all milk, low-fat milk, low-fat and skim milk, cheese, and ice cream… Our study found that several dietary factors were associated with ovarian cancer risk… However, [our study] failed to find an association with any dairy products.”

Sep. 2004

CON (no)


The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in an article for (accessed July 23, 2018) titled “Ask the Expert: Dairy Products,” wrote:

“Recent scientific studies have suggested that dairy products may be linked to increased risk for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and possibly for ovarian and breast cancers…

In Harvard’s Physicians Health Study, including more than 20,000 male physicians, those who consumed more than two dairy servings daily had a 34% higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men who consumed little or no dairy products…

For ovarian cancer, galactose, a component of the milk sugar lactose, has been under study as a possible culprit. A recent analysis of studies examining a relationship between dairy product consumption and ovarian cancer risk found that for every 10 grams of lactose consumed (the amount in one glass of milk), ovarian cancer risk increased by 13 percent.”

July 23, 2018


Harvard School of Public Health distributed a press release on Apr. 4, 2000, “Higher Intake of Dairy Products May Be Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk,” that described researchers’ findings after tracking the Physicians’ Health Study:

“New data from a long-term study suggest an association between consumption of higher quantities of dietary calcium and risk of prostate cancer… They [researchers] found a moderate elevation in risk of prostate cancer associated with higher intakes of dairy products and dairy calcium…

The researchers also found that men who drank more than six glasses of milk per week had lower levels of the potentially protective form of vitamin D than men who drank fewer than two glasses of milk per week.”

Apr. 4, 2000


Alison Stewart, Editor of the Consumer Health Journal, wrote in a Mar. 2004 article titled “Hormones in Milk Are Linked to Cancer,” published in the Consumer Health Journal, that:

“One reason milk consumption may lead to cancer risk is insulin-like growth factor, IGF-1 (not to be confused with bovine growth hormone, rBGH). Milk contains IGF-1 for good reason: milk is designed for babies, and IGF-1 helps us grow. IGF-1 affects growth, as well as other functions, and is normally found in our blood. Higher levels of IGF-1, however, appear to stimulate cancer cells.”

Mar. 2004


Joseph Mercola, DO, osteopath and author, in an article on his website titled “Don’t Drink Your Milk!” (accessed Sep. 17, 2007), wrote:

“BGH [Bovine Growth Hormone] causes an increase in an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in the milk of treated cows. IGF-1 survives milk pasteurization and human intestinal digestion. It can be directly absorbed into the human bloodstream, particularly in infants.

It is highly likely that IGF-1 promotes the transformation of human breast cells to cancerous forms. IGF-1 is also a growth factor for already cancerous breast and colon cancer cells, promoting their progression and invasiveness.”

Sep. 17, 2007


Ganmaa Davaasambuu, MD, PhD, physician, scientist and research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, gave a lecture at Harvard University on Dec. 4, 2006, as reported by Corydon Ireland in his Harvard News article, “Hormones in Milk Can Be Dangerous,” where she stated:

“In the past 50 years in Japan, rising rates of dairy consumption are linked with rising death rates from prostate cancer – from near zero per 100,000 five decades ago to 7 per 100,000 today.”

Dec. 4, 2006


Stephen Walsh, PhD, Science Coordinator for the International Vegetarian Union, wrote in a Nov. 2001 article titled “Milk and Breast Cancer,” posted on the VegSource website:

“Consuming milk increases levels of a growth hormone, IGF-1, in the body. Increased IGF-1 levels are strongly implicated in prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, premenopausal breast cancer and lung cancer. The effect of milk on IGF-1 may be due to absorption of IGF-1 from the milk or may simply be due to the high protein and zinc content of the milk.”

Nov. 2001


Pelayo Correa, MD, Anne Potter Wilson Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, concluded in his Sep. 1981 study “Epidemiological Correlations Between Diet and Cancer Frequency,” published in Cancer Research:

“Strong and consistent correlations are reported between death rates of cancers of the colon and breast and the per capita consumption of total fat and of nutrients derived from animal sources, especially beef, pork, eggs, and milk.”

Sep. 1981


Medicine Online, a medical and health news website, included an article on Aug. 5, 2005 titled “High Milk Intake May Boost Ovarian Cancer Risk,” which stated:

“Three, large, well-designed studies in which dietary intake as assessed among cancer-free women who were followed up over time to see who developed ovarian cancer showed an increased risk of ovarian cancer among women with high intakes of milk and lactose…

If women took in a daily increase of 10 grams of lactose, about the amount in one glass of milk, their risk of ovarian cancer increased by 13 percent…

Exactly how the dairy foods may boost risk isn’t known, but lactose produces galactose and glucose, and galactose has been thought to increase the risk by direct toxicity to the ovarian germ cells.”

Aug. 5, 2005


Susanna Larsson, PhD, researcher in the Unit of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, et al., concluded in their study titled “Milk and Lactose Intakes and Ovarian Cancer Risk in the Swedish Mammography Cohort,” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in Nov. 2004:

“Women who consumed greater than or equal to four servings of total dairy products per day had a risk of serous ovarian cancer twice that of women who consumed less than 2 servings per day. We observed a positive association between lactose intake and serous ovarian cancer risk.

Our data indicate that high intakes of lactose and dairy products, particularly milk, are associated with an increased risk of serous ovarian cancer but not of other subtypes of ovarian cancer.”

Nov. 2004