Is dairy (milk) linked to a higher risk of breast cancer?
The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend women consume 3 cups of dairy daily (note: cups of dairy include foods containing dairy). The dairy group includes calcium-fortified soymilk, along with milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt.
Current nutrition guidelines for dairy milk consumption could be viewed with some caution. There is limited evidence suggesting that higher intakes of dairy milk were associated with greater risk of breast cancer. The recent study (2020) suggests drinking dairy milk increases the risk of breast cancer. The link was clearest with milk calorie intake, with a 50 percent increased risk of women among the top 10 percent of milk drinkers compared to those among the bottom 10 percent. Risk was similar for both full-fat and low-fat versions and pre-menopausal and post-menopausal cases.
However, experts say to consider the research previous to this study (2020) before skipping out completely on milk or dairy products. Previous to this study, the American Institute for Cancer Research found no evidence linking dairy or dairy milk to breast cancer risk.
Dairy is a good source of calcium, which is important for building bones and teeth along with helping to maintain bone density, and a good source of protein which helps to build or repair muscle. Dairy foods also contain essential vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and phosphorus. Nearly all milk is fortified with vitamin D, which helps promote absorption of calcium.
If you are unable to consume dairy or do not want to, other foods that contain calcium include: greens (collards, broccoli, kale, bok choy), edamame, soybeans, tofu, dried figs, fortified drinks such as orange juice, nuts/seeds such as almonds and sesame seeds and calcium fortified cereals.