Drinking milk every day could increase your risk of breast cancer, study reveals

Author: Debayan Paul

Read Time:   |  5th March 2020

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A recent study has revealed the perils of dairy milk intake, with as little as one glass a day having a significant effect on health. 

The findings of a recent study conducted by the researchers at Loma Linda Health University cautioned against the current U.S dietary guidelines that recommends drinking three glasses of dairy milk daily, suggesting that “people should view that recommendation with caution.”

Possible reasons for this cancer and dairy milk association could be the presence of sex hormones in dairy milk since about 75% of a dairy herd is often pregnant and lactating. It must be noted that breast cancer in women is a hormone-responsive cancer and dairy milk exposes women to a higher level of these hormones. The study called for immediate further research in the field.

The observational study found that it is either drinking dairy milk, or factors closely associated to drinking dairy milk have ‘fairly strong evidence’ of causing breast cancer in women.

“Consuming as little as 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dairy milk per day was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer of 30%,” the first author of the study Gary E. Fraser said in a press release. She added when the amount of dairy milk consumption was increased to one cup daily, the risks went up to 50% and when consumption increased up to two cups, risk factors spiked up to 70-80%.

To conclude the findings, researchers reportedly evaluated data from the dietary intake of over 53k North American women. All the women were followed for eight years and were initially free from cancer.

Estimations of the dietary requirements were made by food intake frequency questionnaire (FFQ), repeated 24-hour recalls, along with other baseline questionnaires like family history of breast cancer, demographic, alcohol consumption and breast cancer screening among other methods.

By the end of the study duration, there were 1,057 new breast cancer cases during the follow-up. When compared with low to no dairy milk intake, independent of soy intake, a higher risk of breast cancer was noted with increased dairy calorie and dairy milk intake.

However, no clear association was seen with soy intake and increased risk of breast cancer, independent of dairy. Consuming full-fat milk or non-fat dairy milk had very little variation in the result.

“Dairy-alternate milks may be an optimal choice”

Time and again studies have suggested the possibility of cancer with increased dairy intake, such as a 2003 study which found that women who consumed high-fat dairy products one to two time daily were at an increased risk of breast cancer prior to menopause than women who consumed less.

Speaking to media outlet Bicycling, Fraser explained any increase in cancer risk is worth considering for women who already are exposed to other risks.

“If you are at a relatively high risk because of family history or long-term use of hormones, I would be cautious about the use of dairy milk.”

“This raises the possibility that dairy-alternate milks may be an optimal choice,” the author said in the release.

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