Ask Dr. Dairy: Can Dairy Foods Increase My Risk for Cancer?

  • Article
  • September 14, 2017

In this series, Dr. Greg Miller, Ph.D., FACN, answers questions received from the health and wellness community.

Question: Can dairy foods increase my risk of cancer? 

Answer: Most of us have had an experience with cancer either personally or through family, friends or coworkers. It can be scary and confusing, so it’s understandable people are searching for ways to reduce their risk, which may include watching the foods they eat. When it comes to dairy foods and the risk of a complex disease like cancer, according to a comprehensive review, the evidence is not conclusive. But “the proven health benefits of dairy foods greatly outweigh the unproven harm.”   

Because each cancer is different, it can be difficult to establish dietary recommendations. Rather than focusing on removing specific foods or nutrients, which may do more harm than good, it’s important to concentrate on a healthy eating plan that contains all food groups, including dairy foods.

The American Cancer Society encourages consumption of a healthy diet to help maintain a healthy weight, which is important for overall health. These recommendations are consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) which recommends Americans 9 and older consume three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products every day as part a healthy eating style such as the Healthy U.S.-Style eating pattern. The DGA acknowledges the role of healthy eating styles, which include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and overweight and obesity. In addition, dairy foods have been linked to improved bone health in children and adolescents.

In an effort to keep the scientific evidence related to diet, nutrition, physical activity, weight and cancer current, the World Cancer Research Foundation/American Institute for Cancer Research, in collaboration with the Imperial College London, has undertaken the Continuous Update Project. The Continuous Update Project reports are a good resource when looking for a comprehensive review of the science on diet and cancer – including the research on cancer risk related to diet, body weight and physical activity.

If you have a question on dairy foods and health you would like me to answer in an upcoming column, please leave it in the comment section below or send me a message on Twitter @DrDairy50