How to Diet: Dairy and Prostate Cancer

“The dairy story can be confusing,” says June Chan, professor of epidemiology & biostatistics and urology at the University of California, San Francisco.

She and others followed nearly 4,000 health professionals with localized prostate cancer for eight years to see which men were more likely to “progress.”


“Men who drank whole milk more than four times a week had about twice the risk of lethal prostate cancer compared to men who rarely or never drank whole milk,” says Chan. “But there was a suggestion of a reduced risk for low-fat dairy intake.”

Similarly, when researchers tracked nearly 22,000 physicians—including 2,800 who were diagnosed with prostate cancer—for 28 years, “they saw an elevated risk for prostate cancer death with whole milk intake,” notes Chan.

Although something else about men who drink whole milk may explain the link, there’s good reason to avoid it.

“We don’t recommend whole milk because of the cardiovascular risks associated with a high saturated-fat intake,” says Chan.

Sources: Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 21: 428, 2012; J. Nutr. 2012. doi:10.3945/jn.112.168484.


Other relevant links:

11 Replies to “How to Diet: Dairy and Prostate Cancer”

  1. It is my understanding that drinking Organic whole milk which is known to be higher in Omega 3s and lower in Omega 6s…when compared to conventional milk, is a better choice and helps negate the prostate cancer link in milk.

    1. I understand that too, Janet. Raw organic milk is not the same as the pasteurized milk. It is the process of pasteurizing that causes health problems

    2. Janet,
      It’s not clear that organic milk has more omega-3s and less omega-6 fats than conventional milk. The most recent survey of the 5 studies that have looked at this, from Stanford University published in 2012, found no differences in omega-6 levels between conventional and organic milk. While organic milk had a statistically higher level of omega-3s, the difference in amounts was quite small and it appeared to be due mostly to the result of one of the five studies. In addition, the researchers found evidence that studies showing no difference in omega-3s between the two types of milk were not being published. So, I don’t think we can say at this time that organic whole milk would negate the link with prostate cancer because it has more omega-3s and less omega-6s.

      The review:

      C Smith-Spangler et al. Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Sep 4;157(5):348-66.


    “Men who drank whole milk more than four times a week had about twice the risk of lethal prostate cancer”

    Maybe men who drank more whole milk, ate more cookies or baked goods. Maybe they hate more pork. Maybe they are more likely to be smokers. Maybe they shop at 7-11 where there isn’t much choice and buy junk food.

    Again, this is uncontrolled junk science from which you can conclude NOTHING. Even the article is too embarrassed to say what percent of elevated risk: “they saw an elevated risk”. Is that 0.05% increase? Is that a 5% increase which could be totally due to correlated junk food? Junk science.

  3. I have read that men with prostate problems should limit their calcium intake. I think taking lots of calcium antacids like Tums would be worse than drinking a glass a day of milk. Perhaps this is relevant.

  4. “Although calcium in capsule form is proven to help fight prostate cancer, calcium from dairy products is not. In fact, a 2001 Physicians Health Study by Dr. JM Chan, Dr. MJ Stampfer, Dr. PH Gann, Dr. JM Gaziano, and Dr. EL Giovannucci, found evidence that consuming too many dairy products actually leads to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Therefore, to fight prostate cancer, you should only increase your intake of calcium supplements in pill form, not in the form of increased dairy products.”

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