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NEWS RELEASE August 9, 2005

Milk Linked to Ovarian Cancer: U.S. Experts Issue Recommendation Based on New Swedish Study

WASHINGTON—Nutrition experts with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) are available to comment on a new study reaffirming the association between milk consumption and ovarian cancer. Conducted by researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, the new meta-analysis found that the strongest evidence of the milk-cancer association came from three prospective studies. Every 10 grams of lactose (the amount in one glass of milk) ingested on a daily basis increased ovarian cancer risk by 13 percent. Case-control studies, a weaker line of evidence, produced conflicting results. The study, authored by Susanna Larsson and colleagues, appears this month in the International Journal of Cancer.

“For more than ten years, researchers have reported on the association between milk consumption and ovarian cancer risk,” says Neal D. Barnard, M.D., nutrition researcher and president of PCRM. “There is now sufficient evidence to recommend that women avoid dairy products in order to avoid this potentially lethal cancer.”

In Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study of over 80,000 participants, researchers found that each daily glass of low-fat or skim milk was associated with a 20 percent increase in serous ovarian cancers (Int J Cancer 2004). Researchers hypothesize that galactose, a component of the milk sugar lactose, may damage ovarian cells, making them more susceptible to cancer. The Iowa Women’s Health Study of more than 29,000 postmenopausal women showed that the highest consumers of lactose (milk sugar) had a 60 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer as compared to those who consumed the least lactose (Am J Epidemiol 1999).

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

Neal Barnard, M.D.

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