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The Physicians Committee

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By Chelsea Lenge, R.D., and Neal D. Barnard, M.D.

Calcium, Dairy Products, and Prostate Cancer Incidence
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)-AARP Diet and Health Study is the largest ongoing study in the world examining the relationship between diet and health. In 1995, study researchers assessed dairy and calcium intake in a group of volunteers. After six years of follow-up, a total of 10,180 prostate cancer cases were identified. Skim milk intake was associated with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. Calcium supplementation intake was also positively associated with advanced prostate cancer; however, the results were not significant. In contrast, calcium intake from plant foods was shown to have a potential protective effect against non-advanced prostate cancer. Common plant sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, beans, sesame seeds, and tofu.

Park Y, Mitrou PN, Kipnis V, Hollenbeck A, Schatzkin A, Leitzmann MF. Calcium, dairy foods, and risk of incident and fatal prostate cancer: the NIH-AARP diet and health study. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;166(11):1270-1279.

Processed Meats and Dairy Products Positively Associated with Pancreatic Cancer Risk
bacon and sausagePancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the fifth most common cause of cancer-related mortality. A case-control study conducted between 1995 and 1999 by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, evaluated the association between animal protein, dietary fat, and dairy products and risk for pancreatic cancer. When comparing highest versus lowest intake for certain foods, beef, processed meats, lamb, eggs, and dairy products all showed positive associations with cancer risk. Total dietary cholesterol, animal fat, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat were also found to correspond to an increase in pancreatic cancer risk.

Chan JM, Wang F, Holly EA. Pancreatic cancer, animal protein and dietary fat in a population-based study, San Francisco Bay Area, California. Cancer Causes & Control. 2007;18(10):1153-67.

New Study Links Cancer to Body Weight
A new study published in the British Medical Journal adds more evidence showing that excess weight increases cancer risk. Following 1.2 million women from the Million Women Study, researchers found that increasing weight was associated with increased risk for 10 out of 17 specific types of cancer. Similarly, overweight increased the risk for death for most types of cancer. For information on how a low-fat vegetarian diet can help you trim excess weight, visit

Reeves GK, Pirie K, Beral V, Green J, et al. Cancer incidence and mortality in relation to body mass index in the Million Women Study: cohort study. BMJ. 2007; published online Nov. 6, 2007.

Red and Processed Meat Consumption Significantly Increases Cancer Risk
hot dogThe American Cancer Institute of Research and the World Cancer Research Fund recently published a new comprehensive report on diet, physical activity, and cancer. The report was written by an international panel of researchers who reviewed more than 7,000 large-scale studies, and it included 10 new lifestyle and diet recommendations for cancer prevention. The report found that even small amounts of alcohol and red and processed meats can significantly increase cancer risk, and that no amount of processed meats is completely safe. Every 1.7 ounces of processed meat consumed a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. The report also found that excess body fat increases the risk of cancer of the colon, kidney, pancreas, esophagus, and uterus, as well as postmenopausal breast cancer.

World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2007.

The Cancer ProjectThe Cancer Project is a nonprofit PCRM subsidiary that advances cancer prevention and survival through nutrition education and research.


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