Men, Milk, and Prostate Cancer

Does Milk Really Do A Body Good?

Those milk mustache images and commercials that took the country by storm a few years ago were part of a highly effective marketing campaign with many celebrities jumping on board. Unfortunately, the advertising that resulted may have misled many men into thinking they were doing themselves a favor by consuming large amounts of dairy when, in fact, they weren’t.

After scientific evidence indisputably linked dairy products to prostate cancer, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine urged advertisements instead that said, “Ditch Dairy to Protect Your Prostate.” Yet many men still think that by drinking milk, they’re doing themselves a favor.

The Facts

We know that cancer risk is strongly affected by diet. What role do hormones in milk play in your risk of developing cancer?

Should you be worried about these additives?

In a word, YES.

Research shows that men who drink more than ONE glass of whole milk per day have double the risk of fatal prostate cancer, compared with men who drink less.

Put Down the Spoon, Too

And it’s not just a tall glass of milk that men should be wary of. A daily dish of ice cream, a slice of cheese, scoop of cottage cheese, or that even daily consumption of creamy sour cream can increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

Harvard researchers determined that men who consume more than 2½ servings of dairy products daily are at increased risk of prostate cancer.

For the record, a serving is an 8 oz. glass of milk, one slice of cheese, or one scoop of ice cream.

In a study published in The Prostate in which 1,334 men participated, researchers concluded that men who were regular milk drinkers (more than 4 servings a week) had an average 80% INCREASED risk of recurrence of prostate cancer compared with men who consumed fewer than 3 servings a month.

What else have researchers found?

Don’t think that simply switching to low-fat milk and other low-fat dairy products will put you in the clear, as the risk of prostate cancer is actually HIGHER with increased consumption of low-fat milk.

What Is It About Milk That Does a Body Harm?

Consuming milk and dairy products on a regular basis has been demonstrated to increase blood levels of IGF-1 (an insulin-like growth factor). A Physicians Health Study that tracked 21,600 men for 28 years, showed that men with the highest levels of IGF-1 had more than 4X GREATER RISK of prostate cancer than those men who had the lowest levels of IGF-1.

IGF-1 is implicated in a number of cancers, not just prostate. A recent study in which researchers analyzed more than 400,000 blood samples was published in September 2020 by Oxford University. Those researchers were able to identify sample donors who went on to develop one of 30 different types of malignant cancer – in an average of seven years.

Not Your Father’s Milk

Truth be told, the milk we’re drinking today is very different than that in the past. Why? For one thing, commercially grown and prepared milk has a significantly higher level of hormones. In a study published by The European Journal of Endocrinology, it was noted that prostate cancer is closely related to the exposure to sex steroid hormones.

It turns out that estrogen, a hormone prevalent in the milk of pregnant dairy cows, activates IGF-1. The results of a study about the connection between estrogen and prostate cancer was published in Medical Hypotheses, explaining how hormones in milk are a significant risk factor in prostate cancer development. And while some countries have since recognized the need to ban hormone injections such as bovine somatotrophin (BST) to speed up or increase milk and meat production, the U.S. is not among them.

Body Size Matters

Researchers also took note of cancer recurrence in participants according to their body mass index (BMI). They noted that those men who were overweight and obese had a HIGHER RISK of prostate cancer recurrence than did men of normal weight.

Does Race Matter, Too?

We certainly don’t want to make an issue of race in something as serious as one’s predisposition to developing cancer. That said, it’s important to know that the facts indicate that prostate cancer is more prevalent in black and Afro-Caribbean men than of other races.

According to the American Cancer Society, black men are more than TWICE as likely to die from prostate cancer than white men. Studies back it up in that diverse populations have shown a strong and consistent link between IGF-1 in the blood and the risk of prostate cancer.

The race component of the prostate cancer dietary link is an interesting one to consider. Given that prostate cancer is not as prevalent in Asian cultures, it makes you stop and think. When was the last time you saw cheese listed among the ingredients on a Chinese restaurant menu?

RELATED: How Dairy Affects A Woman’s Risk of Breast Cancer

Men, Milk, and Prostate Cancer

References:

J.M. Chan, M.J. Stampfer, E. Giovannucci, et al, “Plasma insulin-like growth factor-1 and prostate cancer risk: a prospective study,” Science (1998);279:563-565. doi: 10.1126/science.279.5350.563.

J.M. Chan, M.J. Stampfer, J. Ma, et al., “Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2001);74:549-554. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/74.4.54922.

K. Mikami, K. Ozasa, T. Miki, et al., “Dairy products and the risk of developing prostate cancer: A large-scale cohort study,” Cancer Med (Oct 2021): 7298-7307. doi: 10.1002/cam4.4233.

Nick Mulcahy, “Researchers to Men with Prostate Cancer: Avoid Whole Milk,” Medscape Medical News, Oncology News (Nov 15, 2017); https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/888646.

A. Sargsyan, H. Dubasi, “Milk Consumption and Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review,” The World Journal of Men’s Health (July 2021); 39(3): 419–428. doi: 10.5534/wjmh.200051.

D. Tat, A. Kenfield, J.E. Cowan, et al., “Milk and other dairy foods in relation to prostate cancer recurrence: Data from the cancer of the prostate strategic urologic research endeavor (CaPSURE™),” The Prostate (Nov 6, 2017). https://doi.org/10.1002/pros.23441.

M. Tseng, R.A. Breslow, B.I. Graubard, R.G. Ziegler, “Dairy, calcium and vitamin D intakes and prostate cancer risk in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2005);81:1147-1154. doi:10.1093 /a jcn/81.5.114728.

Li-Qiang Qin, Pei-Yu Wang, Takashi Kaneko, Kazuhiko Hoshi, Akio Sato, “Estrogen: one of the risk factors in milk for prostate cancer,” Medical Hypotheses (2004);62(1):133-42. doi: 10.1016/s0306-9877(03)00295-0.

“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 https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/health-concerns-about-dairy

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