Study suggests milk consumption, ovarian cancer link

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Related tags: Milk, Cancer

High intakes of lactose and dairy products, particularly milk, may
increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer, report Swedish
researchers, while previous studies suggest that low-fat milk and
dairy products could actually protect against this cancer.

The study found that women consuming more than two glasses of milk a day significantly increased the risk of the most serious form of the disease.

About 2 per cent of women worldwide will develop ovarian cancer during their lifetime, the seventh most common cancer in women.

Scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, spurred on by the hypothesis that dairy products and milk sugar lactose could play a role in increasing the risk of ovarian cancer, tracked 61 084 women aged between 38-76 for around 13 years.

"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,"​ they conclude in the November issue​ of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 5, 1353-1357.

The Dairy Council said in a statement that while the Larsson, Bergkvist and Wolk study was 'interesting, it is important to put this study into perspective' quoting the study authors who said: "Our study is limited by its observational character ... continued research is warranted to further elucidate the association and mechanisms."

The council adds that recently published studies have demonstrated that consuming low-fat milk and dairy products could have a protective effect against ovarian cancer.

Dr Kate Law, of Cancer Research UK, said it was not yet clear how nutrients, or the amount and distribution of body fat affected the risk of developing cancer.

She commented: "Previous research has also suggested that a diet rich in whole milk, yoghurt and cheese may put women at higher risk of ovarian cancer.

"But the picture is far from clear, as other evidence suggests that women who drink skimmed or low-fat milk might have a lower risk of ovarian cancer."

Head of clinical trials, Dr Law and her team are currently involved in a European project, the largest ever study to investigate the possible links between diet and cancer, that will track half a million people who will keep a record of everything they eat and drink.

"Until more is known about the specific components of diet that influence cancer risk, the best advice is to emphasize a balanced diet which includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables,"​ she added.

Related topics: R&D, Fresh Milk

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