There has been a lot of debate between experts on the impact of dairy products on breast cancer risk. On one hand, some dairy products are rich in saturated fats, which we are told to avoid. However, many dairy products are also good sources of calcium, which has been linked in previous studies to a reduction in breast cancer risk . Ongoing research continues to explore these potential links between dietary calcium intake and breast cancer risk.
A new breast cancer research study examined the relationship between dairy product consumption, calcium intake and breast cancer risk in Chinese women. 438 Chinese women with breast cancer were recruited from a Chinese hospital and matched with 438 healthy Chinese women. Dietary habit information was collected from all women using a food frequency questionnaire and analyzed in reference to breast cancer incidence. The study investigators reported that increasing dietary calcium intake was associated with lower breast cancer risk. In fact, women consuming the highest levels of dietary calcium had a 65% decrease in breast cancer risk compared to women with the lowest levels of calcium consumption. In contrast, the breast cancer researchers did not observe any link between dairy product consumption and breast cancer risk.
This study confirms some earlier studies that getting enough calcium in our diets might help reduce breast cancer risk. Based on this new study, it does not appear to matter whether the calcium comes from dairy products or elsewhere. While dairy products can be a good source of calcium, they can also be high in some dietary fats. Therefore, if you choose to consume dairy products as a regular source of calcium, be sure to choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Most of us need 1,000 - 1,300 mg of calcium per day to meet our basic nutritional needs and research studies suggest that this level might also be the level that provides breast cancer protection. The National Cancer Institute has an excellent Fact Sheet if you are interested in learning more about calcium and breast cancer.