Dairy products and ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Feb;15(2):364-72. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-05-0484.


Background: Dairy foods and their constituents (lactose and calcium) have been hypothesized to promote ovarian carcinogenesis. Although case-control studies have reported conflicting results for dairy foods and lactose, several cohort studies have shown positive associations between skim milk, lactose, and ovarian cancer.

Methods: A pooled analysis of the primary data from 12 prospective cohort studies was conducted. The study population consisted of 553,217 women among whom 2,132 epithelial ovarian cases were identified. Study-specific relative risks and 95% confidence intervals were calculated by Cox proportional hazards models and then pooled by a random-effects model.

Results: No statistically significant associations were observed between intakes of milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and dietary and total calcium intake and risk of ovarian cancer. Higher lactose intakes comparing > or = 30 versus <10 g/d were associated with a statistically significant higher risk of ovarian cancer, although the trend was not statistically significant (pooled multivariate relative risk, 1.19; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-1.40; P(trend) = 0.19). Associations for endometrioid, mucinous, and serous ovarian cancer were similar to the overall findings.

Discussion: Overall, no associations were observed for intakes of specific dairy foods or calcium and ovarian cancer risk. A modest elevation in the risk of ovarian cancer was seen for lactose intake at the level that was equivalent to three or more servings of milk per day. Because a new dietary guideline recommends two to three servings of dairy products per day, the relation between dairy product consumption and ovarian cancer risk at these consumption levels deserves further examination.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Calcium, Dietary / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dairy Products / adverse effects*
  • Dairy Products / classification
  • Diet Surveys
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactose / administration & dosage
  • Lactose / adverse effects*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D / adverse effects*


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamin D
  • Lactose