Human beings and dairy products have a strange relationship. While the benefits of milk and other dairy items have been touted for years, certain data suggest that perhaps our bodies were not designed to eat these products.
And while several studies have shown that dairy consumption can lower the risk of colon, stomach, and pancreatic cancers, new research suggests that eating too much dairy could actually increase the risk of other cancers, such as bladder, testicular, ovarian, thyroid, and—you guessed it—breast cancer.
One of the reasons dairy can increase the risk of breast cancer is that the overconsumption of it increases the risk of obesity, which leads to dense breast tissue and an elevated risk of the occurrence of breast cancer.
Another reason is the presence of the growth hormone IGF-1 and other hormones that are thought to encourage cells to become malignant.
In a review of 11 years’ worth of data on over 3000 women, roughly 2000 of which had breast cancer, researchers found that a high cheese intake corresponded to a 53% higher risk of developing breast cancer. Cheddar and cream cheese appear to be the worst offenders, although most dairy products seem to have roughly the same effect.
The good news? Yogurt consumption yielded opposite results. It actually seemed to reduce the occurrence of breast cancer by about 15 percent in the women studied, possibly because it doesn’t contain the same growth hormones that many dairy products do.
Not to worry. There’s no need to go cutting cheese out of your diet just yet. The increased cancer risk was not associated with dairy consumption in general, but rather with dairy over-consumption. Dr. Maurice Scott, a clinical instructor at the UC School of Medicine, says women would have to drink about 10 cups of milk or eat 10 ounces of cheese per day to start seeing a significantly increased risk. More research will also need to be conducted in the future to ensure the validity of the results of this study.
In the meantime, the best thing you can do is just make sure you don’t go overboard on the cheese and milk. The daily recommended dairy intake for adults is about three cups.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?