Breast cancer patients who eat high-fat dairy products increase their chance of dying from the disease years later, a new study finds.
“Specifically, women consuming one or more servings per day of high-fat dairy had a 64 percent higher risk of dying from any cause and a 49 percent increased risk of dying from their breast cancer during the follow-up period,” said Candyce H. Kroenke, ScD, MPH, staff scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.
The category of high-fat dairy products researchers tracked included cream, whole milk, condensed or evaporated milk, pudding, ice cream, custard, flan and also cheeses and yogurts that were not low-fat or non-fat.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is the first to examine the relationship between high-fat and low-fat dairy consumption following a diagnosis of breast cancer and long-term breast cancer survival.
Previous studies have shown that higher lifetime exposure to estrogen is a pathway to breast cancer. Estrogen levels are believed to be elevated in dairy products consumed in the Western world, because most of its milk comes from pregnant cows. Estrogenic hormones reside primarily in fat, so levels are higher in high-fat than in low-fat dairy products.
The researchers studied a cohort of women who were diagnosed with early-stage, invasive breast cancer between 1997 and 2000, primarily Northern California and Utah.
Those consuming larger amounts of high-fat dairy (one serving or more per day) had “higher breast cancer mortality as well as higher all-cause mortality and higher non-breast cancer mortality,” Kroenke wrote.
In general, the women studied reported that they consumed low-fat milk and butter most often, and they consumed relatively limited amounts of low-fat dairy desserts, low-fat cheese and high-fat yogurt. Overall, low-fat dairy intake was greater than high-fat dairy.
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The study found an association between high-fat dairy and breast cancer mortality, but no association with low-fat dairy products and breast cancer outcomes.