EATING cheese and butter may raise prostate cancer risk, research suggests.
US scientists analysed data on 47 studies which looked at the diet of more than a million men.
They show those who regularly consumed dairy – such as milk, cheese, butter and yoghurt – were between seven and 76 per cent more likely to develop prostate cancer.
While those who ate a vegan diet saw their chances fall by around a fifth.
Experts think dairy raises levels of a key growth hormone and boosts calcium levels, both which have been linked to prostate tumours.
It may explain why rates of the disease are higher in Western nations compared to Asian countries, where dairy intake is low.
Every year around 47,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer, causing 11,000 deaths.
Lead researcher Dr John Shin, from Mayo Clinic in the US, said: “Our review highlighted a cause for concern with high consumption of dairy products.
“The findings also support a growing body of evidence on the potential benefits of plant-based diets.”
The research, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, could lead to men being prescribed calcium lowering drugs to reduce the risk.
Dr Shin added: “Since dairy products are rich in calcium, this raises the possibility of calcium playing an important role in the link between dairy and prostate cancer.
“Most studies showed that plant-based foods are associated with either decreased or unchanged risk of prostate cancer, whereas animal-based foods, particularly dairy products, are associated with either increased or unchanged risk of prostate cancer.”
The findings also support a growing body of evidence on the potential benefits of plant-based diets
Dr John Shin
Eating lots of fruit and vegetables was linked to a reduction in risk of the disease by between 19 and 59 per cent.
Dr Shin said more investigation is needed to understand the nature and strength of the associations.
“There does not appear to be a clear association between increased prostate cancer risk and increased consumption of other types of animal-based foods, including red, white, or processed meat, fish, and eggs,” he said.
Don’t ditch dairy yet
But Brit experts said it is too soon to advise men to ditch dairy.
Tom Sanders, Professor emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London, said: “This review suffers from a number of weaknesses…that do not justify the strong conclusions drawn regarding dairy product consumption and risk of prostate cancer.”
He said being too fat and tall were much stronger risk factors – and that vegans fall in risk could be due to them being slimmer, rather than diet.
Prof Sanders added: “The prevalence of prostate cancer has increased markedly in South East and East Asia, where few dairy products are consumed, which would indicate that life-style factors, other than dairy food consumption, are responsible from the global epidemic prostate cancer.”
The prostate is a small gland lying close to the bladder which produces a component of semen which nourishes sperm.
It’s the most common form of cancer in men in Britain and it’s estimated that one in eight will develop it at some point.