Doctors urge FDA to add cancer warning labels to cheese products

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Physicians say consumers should be aware of the link between dairy products and increased risk of dying of breast cancer

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group comprised of 12,000 medical professionals, has submitted a petition requesting that the FDA add breast cancer warnings to cheese product labels. 

High-fat dairy product consumption has been linked to higher breast cancer mortality rates in women previously diagnosed with the disease, the doctors said, citing findings from a recent study. 

In the petition, the group provided one possible example of a cheese warning label that they believe would be appropriate: “Dairy cheese contains reproductive hormones that may increase breast cancer mortality risk.” 

Informing consumers of health risks

The doctors noted that breast cancer is one of the most common causes of death in women. In light of the apparent link between dairy product consumption and the increased risk of dying from breast cancer, physicians are pushing for warning labels to be added to the products. 

Studies have shown that the trace amounts of estrogen contained in dairy products become more concentrated during the process of converting milk to cheese. That estrogen appears to heighten the risk of dying from breast cancer among women previously diagnosed with the disease.

“Instead of cheese manufacturers like Kraft slapping a pink ribbon on products like Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Macaroni & Cheese, as they have done during previous Breast Cancer Awareness Months, they should be adding warning labels,” PCRM president Neal Barnard, MD, said in a statement. “We want women to be aware that dairy cheese could put them at risk of dying from breast cancer.”

Heightened risk of breast cancer mortality

The Life After Cancer Epidemiology study found that women previously diagnosed with breast cancer had a 49 percent higher risk of dying from the disease if they consumed one or more servings of high-fat dairy products (such as cheese, ice cream, or whole milk) per day. 

The petition was submitted on October 3, at the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“To ensure that Americans understand the potential significant risks, and resulting long-term costs, of consuming dairy cheese products, the FDA should ensure that the notice above is prominently placed on product packaging and labeling for all dairy cheese products,” the petition stated.

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