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Milk boosts death risk from prostate cancer

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By Jimmy Downs

Thursday March 14, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- Men drinking milk can not only increase the risk of developing prostate cancer, but also are more likely to die from the disease even once they contract the disease, though generally speaking prostate cancer in many cases is non-aggressive and easy to control, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition.

Jing Ma from Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, USA and colleagues conducted the study and found men who ate more than two and half servings per day of total dairy products were 12 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer, compared with those who ate less than half serving per day.

This is not the first study to associate drinking milk and eating dairy products with increased risk of prostate cancer.  The current study was intended to examine how different types of dairy products affect the risk of developing prostate cancer and dying from the disease.

The data used for the current study came from the Physicians' Health Study which involved 21,660 doctors who were followed up for a period of 28 years during which, 2,806 cases of prostate cancer and 305 deaths from the disease were confirmed.  Information on dairy consumption was collected at baseline.

From the study, skim/low-fat milk consumption was found to increase the risk of low-grade, early stage, non-aggressive, and screen-detected cancers whereas whole milk consumption increases the risk of fatal prostate cancer or death risk.

To be exact, those drinking 237 ml per day or one serving per day were nearly 50 percent more likely to develop fatal prostate cancer, compared with those rarely drinking any.

After diagnosis, drinking whole milk was found to promote the progression of prostate cancer into an advanced stage or fatal stage.  That is, those who drank whole milk postdiagnosis were more than twice as likely as those who rarely drank any to have advanced or fatal prostate cancer or to die from the disease.

The researchers found " only whole milk was consistently associated with higher incidence of fatal PCa (prostate cancer) in the entire cohort and higher PCa-specific mortality among cases."

They concluded "These findings add further evidence to suggest the potential role of dairy products in the development and prognosis of PCa."

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Prostate cancer is expected to be diagnosed in more than 230,000 men each year in the United States and about 17,000 men die from the disease or its complications in the U.S. annually.

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