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Nutrition & Weight Control

From the Current Issue

New Research:
Milk and Calcium May Decrease Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Drinking milk may offer protection against cancer of the distal colon and rectum, according to findings from a recent international study.

Researchers pooled data from 10 observational studies with over 534,000 men and women, 4,992 of whom developed colorectal cancer during 6 to 16 years of follow-up. Those who drank the most milk—at least a cup a day—had about a 15% lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who drank the least milk. Other dairy products studied, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, were not clearly linked to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.

A high overall intake of calcium—from diet and supplements—was also related to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, although amounts beyond 1,000 mg a day produced little or no additional benefit. It is unclear whether this effect was related to intake of milk, which is an important source of dietary calcium, or to the effects of calcium alone.

Calcium and dairy food are hypothesized to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by slowing the proliferation of cells in the colon, and some animal research supports this theory. Because this study is observational (rather than a clinical trial), it cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship. However, it does add support to recommendations to obtain calcium in the diet.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Volume 96, page 1015
July 7, 2004


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