Love drinking milk? Well, this study that links dairy products to breast cancer will make you rethink your decision

Updated on:25 February 2020, 23:44pm IST
We’ve been brought up with the belief that consuming milk is great for your bones, but it turns out that consuming it daily can have health risks too.
PTI
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Who knew milk couldn't save us from the growing risk of osteoporosis? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Being raised in a desi family, we’re often taught the importance of “gaaye ka doodh” for our health. While milk is filled with nutrients and plenty of health benefits, it also has its own downsides. Be it shakes or raw, if you love drinking milk on a daily basis, then give this article a read for the sake of your breast health.

According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the intake of milk may be linked to a greater risk of breast cancer. The study also gave new clinical dietary recommendations for women to prevent this malignant disease.

The researchers from Loma Linda University in the US say that the study gives a reasonably strong indication that milk is one of the causes of breast cancer in women. The study also noted that even moderate amounts of dairy milk consumption can increase women’s risk of breast cancer by up to 80 per cent. 

Also, read: Milk is your skin’s worst enemy. Here’s why

Gary E. Fraser, study co-author from Loma Linda University says: 

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

The scientists assessed the dietary intakes of nearly 53,000 North American women who were initially free of cancer and were followed for almost eight years.

The researchers also asked for their demographics, family history of breast cancer, physical activity, alcohol consumption, hormonal and other medication use, breast cancer screening, and reproductive, and gynaecological history. By the end of the study period, there were 1,057 new breast cancer cases during follow-up. 

The scientists did not find any clear link between soy products and breast cancer, independent of dairy. But, compared to low or no milk consumption, higher intakes of dairy calories and dairy milk were associated with greater risk of breast cancer, independent of soy intake.

Fraser also noted that the results had a minimal variation when compared to the intake of full fat versus reduced or nonfat milk and there were no important associations noted with other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.

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

downside of dairy milk
Try some dairy-alternate milk to reduce the risk. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The association between breast cancer and dairy milk is suspected to be due to the sex hormone content present in the dairy milk, as the cows are lactating, and often about 75% of the dairy herd is pregnant. Fraser said that breast cancer in women is a hormone-responsive cancer, and the intake of dairy and other animal proteins is linked with higher blood levels of a hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is believed to promote certain cancers.

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

So, now when you know the other side of dairy too–try swapping your regular milk with plant-based milk such as almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and soy milk to relish and enjoy your regular shakes!