How Dairy Affects A Woman’s Risk of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for this sex.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), breast cancer has now surpassed lung cancer as the world’s most commonly diagnosed cancer.

If you saw our recent post about how dairy products are linked to men’s prostate cancer, then you may not be surprised to learn that dairy is also a significant risk factor for women and the development of breast cancer.

When Milk Doesn’t Live Up to the Hype

We all saw them — those milk mustache images sported by virtuous-looking celebrities drinking what many consider a healthy, non-threatening beverage. It was a highly effective marketing campaign.

Unfortunately for those who jumped on the drink-more-milk-it’s-good-for-you band wagon, the results were confounding. A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology (2020), threw cold water on the idea that increasing dairy milk consumption is a healthy decision in relation to cancer development. Researchers followed 52,795 North American women for nearly eight years to see what impact dairy (and soy) had upon their potential development of breast cancer. Approximately one-third of the female study participants were of black descent, and the average age was 57½.

Findings from the study include:

  • Women who consume as little as 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dairy milk per day increase their risk of developing breast cancer by about 30 percent.
  • Women who consume 2-3 cups of dairy milk daily increase their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 80 percent.
  • There is a higher risk of breast cancer development with dairy milk, regardless of its fat content. So low-fat, high-fat choices are inconsequential.

Their conclusion? Women who consumed higher amounts of dairy milk have a markedly increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers further concluded that the current national guidelines for dairy milk consumption should be viewed with caution. And we agree.

Current U.S. Dairy Guidelines

Current guidelines here in the U.S. recommend that children age 9 and older, including adults, consume 3 cups a day of low-fat, fat-free and dairy foods. That is in stark contrast to the findings of the latest scientific research on the link between dairy and breast cancer.

What Is It About Milk That Does A Body Harm?

Gary E. Fraser, lead author of the aforementioned study, stated that possible reasons for the dairy milk/breast cancer connection may have to do with the sex hormone content of dairy milk. “Breast cancer is a hormone-responsive cancer,” Fraser said, “and as approximately 75 percent of the dairy cows are pregnant and lactating when milked, the increased hormones are passed along in their milk.”

But there’s more. The increased intake of dairy and other animal proteins are associated with higher blood levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) which is thought to promote certain cancers like prostate cancer (see: Men, Milk and Prostate Cancer). And guess what? IGF-1 affects women similarly.

IGF-1 is implicated in a number of cancers, and consuming dairy milk on a regular basis has been demonstrated to increase blood levels of IGF-1. A recent study in which researchers analyzed more than 400,000 blood samples (Sept 2020, Oxford University) found that participants went on to develop one of 30 different types of malignant cancer – in an average of only seven years.

Estrogen, a hormone prevalent in the milk of pregnant dairy cows, activates IGF-1. Some countries have recognized the need to ban hormone injections such as bovine somatotrophin (BST) to speed up or increase milk and meat production, if only for the benefit of the animals. However, the U.S. is not among them.

What Can You Do?

Plant-based milks are an option. Consider these healthy milk substitutes from Ann Louise Gittleman in her article, “Got Milk?”. In addition to explaining superior sources of calcium, she shares a DIY recipe for making sesame milk – one that was handed down from Dr. Hazel Parcells, pioneer nutritionist who lived to be 106.

If You’re Facing Cancer, You’re Not Alone

For incredibly inspiring real-life stories, we invite you to watch our video interviews with breast cancer survivors. They’re available 24/7 and always free. We recommend:

  • Paula Black who reversed terminal breast cancer without chemotherapy, radiation or drugs. Originally given only 3-6 months to live, Paula reversed her cancer and 22 years later, she is still cancer free and in vibrant health.
  • Jenny Bradley was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and ever since has been diligent in the pursuit of holistic and integrative cancer therapies. Jenny is living proof that you can beat this disease.
  • Kirstin Nussgruber, a two-time cancer survivor and holistic nutritionist She shares the complementary and integrative medical approaches she used in addition to conventional treatment to beat her own cancer.
  • In 2007, when Elyn Jacobs received her first cancer diagnosis, Stage 1 Breast Cancer, she had a bilateral mastectomy. Although she was assured by medical experts that there was practically no chance of the cancer returning, in 2014, the cancer returned with a vengeance, this time at Stage 3. In this video interview, Jacobs shares her thoughts about the importance of addressing the root cause of cancer, something she says her doctors neglected the first time around.
  • Kathy Mydlach Bero spent 18 years as an advocate for ecosystem protection and traveled extensively teaching leadership skills to women around the world before settling with her family on a 60-acre farm. She thought her idyllic rural lifestyle was just what she needed to return to good health. Image her surprise when she was diagnosed with two rare and late-stage cancers. Learn how she fought and won her battle against cancer.
  • Cancer survivor Danielle Wotherspoon from South Africa talks candidly about how she healed herself of Stage 3 breast cancer using only holistic methods of treatment. Danielle didn’t want to burden her husband with her secret (breast cancer), as he was quite ill with mercury poisoning. But as the lump in her breast continued to grow, she had no choice. Her prognosis was 5 years IF she had the conventional cancer therapies – surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. She opted against those treatments and instead found an integrative physician she trusted. She shares her story of how she turned her situation around and remains cancer-free today.
  • At the age of 44, Ann Fonfa was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, a slow-growing breast cancer. She declined conventional treatment recommendations of radiation and chemotherapy, opting instead for natural methods of treatment. She shares those methods used in which she enjoyed full recovery.
  • Jenny Hrbacek, RN, set out on a life-changing journey when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. Author of the book, Cancer-Free!: Are You Sure?, Jenny now devotes her time and energy to helping others discover the tests that can help you discover cancer earlier than mammograms, biopsies, or PET scans, giving you much needed time to intervene with healing therapies, diet, and detox. Her story of health and restoration is an inspiration.

Expert Interviews

If you’ve ever wished you could ask various cancer experts from all around the world what THEY recommend to their patients, then you must see our growing list of Expert Interviews. Spend some time from the comfort of your home listening in on amazing down-to-earth conversations with world-class practitioners who freely share their expertise.

Chances are you’ll hear the answers to many of the questions you’d like to ask these cancer experts.

How Dairy Affects A Woman’s Risk of Breast Cancer


G.E. Fraser, K. Jaceido-Siegl, M. Orlich, et al., “Dairy, soy, and risk of breast cancer: those confounded milks,” International Journal of Epidemiology (October 2020);49(5):1526-1537. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyaa007.

F. Bray, J. Ferlay, I. Soerjomataram, et al., “Global cancer statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries,” CA Cancer Journal for Clinicians (November 2018);68(6):394-424. doi: 10.3322/caac.21492.

Sarah Williams, MAT, “Gary E. Fraser, MBChB, PhD, Milk and Breast Cancer Risk,” Oncology Data Advisor (March 10, 2020).

“Study finds that high levels of a growth factor increases risk of several cancers,” University of Oxford (Sept 15, 2020).

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Health Concerns About Dairy

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