Does dairy cause breast cancer?

Should we eliminate dairy from our diet, especially women?

Is it better to use alternative milks like soya milk?


What is the evidence about milk and breast cancer

I encounter lots of women who have a ‘phobia’ for dairy and dairy products. I can understandably empathies with all women who worry about this issue. This reason being because the internet is full of misinformation about milk. Apart from the misinformation on the web, there are also published studies that drinking dairy milk is associated with cancer. One particular study  was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology that concluded that drinking dairy milk is associated with a greater risk of breast cancer by 30%. In this study, dairy products as such cheese and yogurt don’t appear to have any effect on breast cancer.

This type of research is known as an observation study. This describe and potentially identify a correlation between milk intake and the rate of breast cancer occurrence in women. The problem with observation studies is that they don’t identify a cause and effect. Therefore, its aim is to direct scientists to ask the right questions and conduct proper studies. Observational studies are not intended to be used to inform clinical decisions for dietitians. In other words these studies cannot guide us on what to eat or not to prevent cancer. In nutrition studies, researchers use food frequency questionnaires and diet recall methods to find out what subjects are eating. This is because a person who drinks soya milk could have been eating more fruit and vegetables. While people who consumed dairy milk could also consume junk food on a regular basis. Therefore, their diet wasn’t measured in terms of quantity and quality.


What is the evidence about soya milk and breast cancer?

In addition, I frequently hear women say that they consume soya milk as it is ‘healthier’ than dairy milk. Evidence on the relationship of soya and breast cancer are very limited. In other words, more research is needed for conclusive evidence whether soya increases or decreases the risk of breast cancer.

In both cases, the research is inconclusive but there is a lot of strong evidence about other foods which prevent the risk of having cancer such as fruits and vegetables. In addition, milk is important for its calcium intake for strong bones, teeth and Vitamin D synthesis.


Till now, from the thousands of studies assessing the relationship between dairy milk and breast cancer we cannot conclude that there is a relationship. Some studies found that there might be an increase in risk, some found no relationship at all.  Other studies suggested that dairy milk is protective against breast cancer. This means that more research studies need to be carried out as it is concluded in a systematic review  published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In conclusion, I would strongly suggest to stick with the current evidence based recommendations of having 3 portions of dairy products per day. These could be 1 glass of milk or alternative milk such as soya, yogurt and cheese. In addition, always try to include fruit and vegetables for their anti-oxidant properties. Also, don’t forget to exercise and keep fit for maximum immune system function and well-being.

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