Milk consumption leads to prostate cancer

Marjorie Roswell

I wish more people knew that consuming cow’s milk products often results in prostate and other cancers. Yes, many who have had a “Milk is good for you” upbringing will be inclined to argue that point, but I’ll make my case here, based primarily on peer-reviewed journal articles. In some instances, the internet will grant full text of these articles, and in others, you can only get as far as an abstract, I have paper copies of most of the full-text articles that I reference below (and many more!) Contact me if you would like a copy.

This column makes extensive use of PubMed, the National Library of Medicine’s biomedical literature citation database. Many of the resources described here can be found most easily by entering a PubMed ID number (PMID) at Don’t use quotation marks when you enter the PMID. I hope this citation detail proves helpful to you.

First, consider these recent findings:

* Meta-Analysis: “Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer…. In conclusion, we found a positive association between milk consumption and prostate cancer.” Nutr Cancer. 2004;48(T):22-7. [Search for 15203374.]

* “Among the food items we examined, cheese was most closely correlated with the incidence of testicular cancer at ages 20-39, followed by animal fats and milk…. Concerning prostatic cancer, milk was most closely correlated with its incidence, followed by meat and coffee…. The food that was most closely correlated with the mortality rate of prostatic cancer was milk, followed by coffee, cheese and animal fats.” Int J Cancer. 2002 Mar 10;98(2):262-7. [Search for 11857417.] This isn’t exactly new information; for instance, note this 20-year old paper:

* “Suggestive positive associations were also seen between fatal prostate cancer and the consumption of milk, cheese, eggs, and meat. There was an orderly dose-response between each of the four animal products and risk.” Am J Epidemiol. 1984 Aug: 120(2):244-50. [Search for 6465122.] Or this one published just two years after that:

* “Positive correlations between foods and cancer mortality rates were particularly strong in the case of meats and milk for breast cancer, milk for prostate and ovarian cancer, and meats for colon cancer.” Cancer 1986 Dec 1;58(11):2363-71. [Search for 3768832.]

I will discuss a number of agents underlying the dairy/cancer connection.

1. Pesticides and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are carcinogenic, and they bioaccummulate. ToHide.pdf

I recommend reading PANNA’s eye-opening Nowhere to Hide report. Check out Appendix D if you would like to see the actual levels of pesticides found in samples of various foods, including milk, butter, and cheese.

For additional research, search PubMed for words such as “pesticide” or “organochlorine” and “residue” and “milk.” If you add the word “human” you’ll learn that women are transferring their toxic body burden to their babies via breast-feeding and to their fetuses before birth via the umbilical cord. Consider using the helpful “Related Articles” option. For instance, search for 10808614, and then click on the “Related Articles” link.

2. Casein. I expect it will surprise people to learn of research pointing to milk protein itself as a carcinogen. Researcher T. Colin Campbell found that he could turn growth of rat liver precancerous lesions on, and then off, and then on, and then off again, based purely on the level of casein (milk protein) in the diet! [Search for 1356614 for 1679128 or 1359506.]

3. Radiation. Levels of radiation in milk are currently low, now that it’s been 18 years since the Chernobyl accident, but they are likely relatively higher in cows raised near nuclear power plants. The Center for Biological Monitoring at the Davistown Museum has a very rich web page on historic data. The EPA does some testing on radiation levels in milk, but most of the samples are on aggregated milk, which would dilute geographic variation.

4. Estrogen. In the United States, most dairy cows are pregnant, so their milk is rich with female sex hormones, including the cancer-promoting hormone, estrogen. (Unlike humans, pregnant cows continue to produce milk.) Med Hypotheses, 2004;62(1): 133-42. [Search for 9438850.] Estrogen receptors are found on the prostate gland as well as in breast and ovarian tissue.

5. Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1), and recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH, sometimes called BST).

* IGF-1 is a mitogenic hormone found in milk. Cow’s milk naturally has IGF-1 in it, but IGF-1 levels increase between 3.6 and more than 10-fold when cows are injected with rBGH. [Search for 7993454 or 7993421.] or

* Cow IGF-1 and Human IGF-1 are identical. [Search for 3390164.] It’s worth noting, also, that manufacturers originally claimed that recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is identical to the natural Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), but further research proved that it isn’t.

* The IGF-1 level in human blood is a strong predictor of prostate cancer risk. [Search for 9438850 or 11592771 or 9637140 or 15284261.]

* IGF-1 induces rapid cell division and multiplication. [Search for 10995803. Includes link to free full-text.]

* IGF-1 also suppresses normally programmed cell death, and specifically inhibits cell death induced by anti-cancer drugs. [Search for 7552814 or 10995803.]

* IGF-1 is not destroyed by pasteurization. In fact, pasteurization increases the level of the hormone. rBGH can also be absorbed across the gut into the bloodstream. [Search for 2203142. These findings are mentioned in the full text, not in the abstract. Note that the study purported to show that rBGH use was safe, but data was reported only in aggregate. A Freedom of Information request filed by citizen Robert Cohen for access to the original data was declined. The FDA claimed that disclosure of the data would result in “competitive harm” to Monsanto. Here’s an interesting description of this effort, at]


* Some cancer-promoting components of milk include Persistent Organic Pollutants, hormones (we considered estrogen, and IGF in particular), low-level radiation, and even milk protein itself.

* IGF-I levels in milk are elevated both by rBGH injections to the cow, and by pasteurization

* Cow IGF-I and human IGF-I are identical

* IGF-I can cross into the bloodstream from the gut

* There’s a strong positive association between serum levels of IGF-I and prostate cancer risk

* Men who consume high levels of milk die more often from prostate cancer than men who consume low levels of milk

What to Do

A news story begins “The only test for prostate cancer has been declared useless–by its own inventor. So how can men protect themselves from a disease that claims 10,000 lives a year?” [The Independent, 9/22/04] The story concludes with the promise of a better diagnostic test. I offer, instead that the best protection is:

* For people who want to prevent cancer, or prevent recurrence: a dairy-free or very-low-dairy diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables.

* For health professionals: extensive consideration of milk and cancer connection. It’s a tragedy each time a doctor tells a patient that there’s no connection between his cancer and his diet, I know about too many such cases. I welcome ideas on how to educate doctors about this research!

Here are more resources worth reading in their entirety. A few are technical, but most are very accessible. I offer Townsend Letter readers full-text for many of the articles referenced in the URLs below. If you’re able to get the articles through your library or via online subscriptions, that’s the best way, but I can try to supplement what you’re unable to find on your own.

Diet and Prostate Cancer

What’s wrong with Dairy Products?

Prostate Cancer and Milk

Milk and the Cancer Connection: With complete references for researchers

Unlabeled milk from cows treated with biosynthetic growth hormones: a case of regulatory abdication

Potential public health hazards of biosynthetic milk hormones

(Informative, in-depth full-text of two journal articles by Dr. Samuel Epstein. I used the print options Page Scaling: Fit to Paper, and Auto-Rotate and Center.)

Additional great web content on milk and cancer

by Marjorie Roswell

3443 Guilford Terrace * Baltimore, Maryland 21218 USA

Phone: 410-467-3727 * Email:

A column devoted to informative alternative health resources on the internet

COPYRIGHT 2004 The Townsend Letter Group

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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