Lactose intolerance and risk of lung, breast and ovarian cancers: aetiological clues from a population-based study in Sweden

Br J Cancer. 2015 Jan 6;112(1):149-52. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2014.544. Epub 2014 Oct 14.


Background: Individuals with lactose intolerance are recommended to avoid milk or dairy products, which may affect the development of cancer.

Methods: We identified individuals with lactose intolerance from several Swedish Registers linked to the Swedish Cancer Registry to calculate standardised incidence ratios (SIRs) for cancers in the breast, lung, and ovary.

Results: A total of 22,788 individuals with lactose intolerance were identified, and their risks of lung (SIR=0.55), breast (SIR=0.79), and ovarian (SIR=0.61) cancers were significantly decreased. Cancer incidences in the siblings and parents of individuals with lactose intolerance were similar to those in the general population.

Conclusions: In this large cohort study, people with lactose intolerance, characterised by low consumption of milk and other dairy products, had decreased risks of lung, breast, and ovarian cancers, but the decreased risks were not found in their family members, suggesting that the protective effects against these cancers may be related to their specific dietary pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactose Intolerance / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Risk
  • Sweden / epidemiology