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Is Consumption of Dairy Products Linked to Colorectal Cancer Risk?

By: Kayci Reyer
Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2018

According to research published in the International Journal of Cancer, a high level of total dairy intake, as well as low-fat milk consumption, was significantly associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer development in an older Mediterranean population with a high cardiovascular risk. However, Jordi Salas‐Salvadó, MD, PhD, of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain, and colleagues concluded that further prospective studies as well as clinical trials on secondary prevention would be justified to confirm their findings.

“Adherence to a healthy diet has been reported to be essential for the primary prevention of [colorectal cancer], as dietary factors are estimated to contribute to nearly 50% of cases,” noted the authors. “The traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern, which is characterized by an abundance of plant foods, olive oil and fish, a low consumption of red meat and processed meat, and a moderate consumption of dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt) has been associated with a lower incidence of [colorectal cancer].”

A total of 7,216 individuals without colorectal cancer participated in the study, which recruited participants between 2003 and 2009 with follow-up continuing through December 2012. Researchers assessed the consumption of total and specific dairy products using a food-frequency questionnaire, issued at the start of the program and yearly thereafter.

At a median follow-up of 6 years, 101 cases of colorectal cancer were documented. Hazard ratios of colorectal cancer for comparing extreme tertiles of total dairy consumption were 0.55 (P trend = .037), and those for comparing extreme tertiles of low-fat milk consumption were 0.54 (P trend = .022). No specific associations with any other subgroup of dairy product—including whole-fat and low-fat dairy products and yogurts, cheese, and sugar-enriched dairy products—were identified.

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