Milk/dairy products consumption, galactose metabolism and ovarian cancer: meta-analysis of epidemiological studies

Eur J Cancer Prev. 2005 Feb;14(1):13-9. doi: 10.1097/00008469-200502000-00003.


Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death among women and the leading cause of gynaecological cancer death in the United States. Milk/dairy products consumption was considered to be a risk factor for ovarian cancer mainly because milk carbohydrate-lactose and galactose metabolism is toxic to oocytes. However, recent evidence does not support this hypothesis completely. We collected epidemiological studies related to the association between milk/dairy products consumption or galactose metabolism (lactose, galactose, galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase, lactose/transferase) and ovarian cancer published between January 1966 and August 2003 and found 27 items from 22 independent studies. Twenty studies were case-control studies and the other two were cohort studies. A meta-analysis method was conducted to estimate relative risk combining all relative data. In general, we did not find any association between milk/dairy products or galactose metabolism and ovarian cancer risk in this meta-analysis. The consumption of whole milk and butter, which contain relatively high amounts of fat, was positively (relative risk > 1.2), but not significantly, associated with an increased risk.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dairy Products*
  • Diet*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Galactose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Galactose