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Dairy milk could increase consumers’ risk of breast cancer

Researchers say consistent milk consumption could be a cause for concern

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Previous studies have highlighted how consumers’ diets can increase their risk of breast cancer, and now a new study conducted by researchers from Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center are warning consumers about dairy milk. 

The researchers found that even small quantities of dairy milk consumption can increase consumers’ risk of breast cancer. This finding has prompted the researchers to encourage consumers to reconsider their dairy milk intake, as finding a dairy substitute could be better for women’s health. 

“...Dairy foods, especially milk, were associated with increased risk, and the data predicted a marked reduction in risk associated with substituting soy milk for dairy milk,” said researcher Gary E. Fraser, PhD. “This raises the possibility that dairy-alternate milks may be an optimal choice.”  

Monitoring dairy intake

The researchers had over 53,000 women participate in the study. They reported on their typical eating patterns, their health history, their family’s health history, and other lifestyle factors, including alcohol consumption and physical activity. 

The researchers followed up with the women nearly eight years later, at which point they learned that over 1,000 new breast cancer diagnoses had been made. 

In analyzing the women’s responses, the study revealed that higher dairy milk consumption was associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. The researchers found that milk was the biggest risk factor, as other dairy products like yogurt and cheese didn’t yield the same results. 

“Consuming as little as one-quarter to one-third cup of dairy milk per day was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer of 30 percent,” said Fraser. “By drinking up to one cup per day, the associated risk went up to 50 percent, and for those drinking two to three cups per day, the risk increased further to 70 percent to 80 percent.” 

Urging caution

The risks were just as high for those opting for fat-free or low-fat milk options. While current nutrition guidelines recommend that consumers drink three glasses of milk per day, Fraser and his team are urging consumers to “view that recommendation with caution.” 

“Dairy milk does have some positive nutritional qualities, but these need to be balanced against other possible, less helpful effects,” Fraser said. “This work suggests the urgent need for further research.” 

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