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Ovarian Cancer

Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk With a Plant-Based Diet That Avoids Dairy

Avoiding dairy products and increasing fruit, vegetable, and soy consumption may be beneficial for reducing ovarian cancer risk and improving survival.

Ovarian cancer is the second-most common gynecologic cancer in the United States and causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Most ovarian cancers occur in women age 50 or older. Other risk factors include genetics; a history of breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer; Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background; and endometriosis. 

Avoid Dairy Products

Research shows that dairy products may increase the risk of ovarian cancer. One study followed women with and without cancer from the African American Cancer Epidemiology Study and monitored consumption of dairy products, lactose, calcium, and vitamin D and cancer incidence rates. Those with the highest intake of whole milk and lactose increased their risk for ovarian cancer, compared with those who consumed the least, while those who consumed the most calcium decreased their risk for cancer by 49%.

A Harvard School of Public Health analysis of 12 studies found a 19% increase in ovarian cancer for women consuming greater than 30 grams of lactose per day, the equivalent of three or more servings of dairy milk.

Try these healthful, plant-based sources of calcium without the added risk from dairy.

Eat Fruits, Vegetables, and Soy

A study that examined food patterns prior to ovarian cancer diagnosis in women shows that those with the highest fruit and vegetable intakes have better ovarian cancer survival rates. Yellow and cruciferous vegetables, in particular, contributed to longer survival, whereas dairy products and red and processed meat shortened lifespan.

Soy foods may also be beneficial. Dietary factors and incidence of ovarian cancer were analyzed among women from the California Teachers Study cohort. Those who consumed 3 milligrams of isoflavones (a phytoestrogen found in soy foods) per day had a 44% lower risk than women who consumed less than 1 milligram. Typical soy foods such as tofu or soy milk contain, on average, about 20 to 50 milligrams per serving.

A vegan diet may help provide the most protection. Research from the Adventist Health Study-2 found that vegan women had a 34% decreased risk for cancers including breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers, compared with nonvegetarians.

Healthy Eating for Life