Dairy product consumption and the risk of breast cancer

J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6 Suppl):556S-68S. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2005.10719504.


It has been suggested in some reports that dairy product consumption may increase the risk of breast cancer. This review gives a brief overview of the etiology of breast cancer and in particular the roles of fat, bovine growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 and estrogens. Evidence from animal studies and epidemiology does not support a role for fat in the etiology of breast cancer. The daily intake of insulin-like growth factor-1 and biologically active estrogens from dairy products is minute in comparison to the daily endogenous secretion of these factors in women, whereas bovine growth hormone is biologically inactive in humans. On the other hand, milk contains rumenic acid, vaccenic acid, branched chain fatty acids, butyric acid, cysteine-rich whey proteins, calcium and vitamin D; components, which have the potential to help prevent breast cancer. Evidence from more than 40 case-control studies and 12 cohort studies does not support an association between dairy product consumption and the risk of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Dairy Products*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Growth Hormone / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / physiology
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Fats
  • Estrogens
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone