Too Much Dairy May
Lead To Prostate Cancer
By Neil Sherman - HealthSCOUT Reporter

Drinking milk, eating cheese and ice cream increase risk.
(HealthSCOUT) - Got milk? Lots of it? Then you may also be in line to get prostate cancer, a long-term study suggests.
A 13-year look at 20,855 male doctors who took part in the Physicians' Health Study shows that men who enjoy lots of milk, cheese and ice cream are 30 percent more likely to get prostate cancer. The study is a long-term look at U.S. doctors who were aged 40-82 when the study began in 1982.
"It's actually quite a weak association," says Julie Chan, a research fellow with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. "In other, previous studies, where we had a more comprehensive assessment of diet, we saw a two- to four-fold increase in risk for the disease [and dairy products]."
Chan and researchers from Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston used a brief dietary questionnaire to figure out how much of five foods the men ate and drank. "We assessed their diet between 1992 and 1984 when the men were healthy. Then we followed them for about 11 years. In that period of time about 1,000 of the men got prostate cancer, which is not an unusual percentage."
This year, about 180,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and about 32,000 will die from the disease, the American Cancer Society estimates. The National Cancer Institute says prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in American men.
Chan says, "These men had a moderate elevation in their risk for prostate cancer when we adjusted for other risk factors such as age, smoking, exercise levels and body mass index."
Chan will present the results of her study tomorrow at the 91st annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Francisco.
Researchers found another clue for an increased risk in men who drank more than six glasses of milk a week.
Men who drank the most milk seemed to have lower levels of a protective form of vitamin D (not the same form of the vitamin D used to fortify milk), Chan says.
Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta explains: "Calcium, especially when it is taken as a supplement, has the ability to temporarily suppress the amount of vitamin D that circulates in the blood. Vitamin D is thought to be important in suppressing the growth of prostate cells."
The possible link between calcium and prostate cancer is no surprise to the American Cancer Society.
"There have been other studies that suggest that calcium may be an increased risk for prostate cancer," says Doyle. "And there are also some studies that suggest that calcium is protective against colon cancer; the jury is still out on both of those."
"What we do know is that consuming calcium is important to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, so don't jump to conclusions and throw out the milk with the bath water," Doyle says.
More research is still needed, Chan and Doyle say.
"From the American Cancer Society perspective, we have been keeping an eye on this, but the science is not yet conclusive, so we have not come out and recommended that men completely avoid calcium."
Chan agrees: "We did not want to recommend that men stop consuming calcium. What we wanted to do with this study is encourage more research."
What To Do
The American Cancer Society says that calcium is still an important nutrient. "Don't stop consuming calcium," Doyle says. "And dairy products, which are a major source of calcium, are not the only source. Leafy greens are full of calcium. But if you do choose to eat dairy products, don't forget to choose the low-fat varieties."


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