On Dairy and Cancer Prevention

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S. As a radiologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, I see the toll it takes on my patients and their families every day.

We’re all looking for ways to avoid the disease. But I’m distressed to hear the popular new theory that cutting out dairy will help. I always pay close attention to these new theories; is the evidence scientific, or anecdotal? If there is a scientific study, does the interpretation weigh all the factors? Or does it make assumptions? After all, cancer is a complex disease, influenced by multiple genetic and environmental factors over time.

Don’t let the hype make you nervous. Remember these eight facts:

  1. Even including the latest studies, there simply isn’t enough evidence to link milk and milk products to breast cancer.1
  2. Overall findings from research on prostate cancer fail to find a link between milk and milk products with prostate cancer.2,3,4
  3. The World Cancer Research Fund, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society do not recommend eliminating or reducing dairy intake.
  4. Scientific evidence shows that milk and calcium probably actually protect against colorectal cancer.1
  5. Leading organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute urge Americans to get their recommended calcium through foods rather than supplements.
  6. The American Cancer Society recommends reduced-fat milk and milk products to help stock a healthy kitchen.
  7. Milk and milk products pack a nutritional punch in your diet by providing substantial amounts of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and riboflavin.
  8. When eaten as a part of an overall healthy diet, dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt promote good health and help prevent disease.

Personally, I drink milk every day. It’s my favorite drink for lunch and for after a workout. In fact, drinking milk reminds me of my days as a student. I always choose milk; I love it.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat and fat-free dairy is the key to keeping your body running right. An active life with healthy habits is the best gift you can give your body.


1. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Second Expert Report. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington, DC; AICR, 2007.www.dietandcancerreport.org. Accessed July 21, 2014. 
2. Lampe, J. Dairy products and cancer. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 30(suppl): 464s-470s, 2011. 
3. Chagas, C.E.A., M.M. Rogero and L.A. Martini. Evaluating the links between intake of milk / dairy products and cancer. Nutr. Rev. 70(s): 294-300, 2012.
4. Parodi, P.W. Dairy product consumption and the risk of prostate cancer. Int. Dairy J. 19: 551-565, 2009.

By Tanya Mosely, M.D.

Dr. Tanya Moseley is an associate professor of radiology, specializing in breast imaging for the past 15 years. She has always been involved with and has held several leadership positions within the medical community; she was most recently named the 2013-2016 American Roentgen Ray Society Section Chief of the Breast Section Case-based Reviews.

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