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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Diets High in Dairy May Boost Colon Cancer Survival

But, at least one expert strongly disagrees, and instead recommends that cancer patients avoid dairy

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A diet rich in dairy products may slightly extend the lives of people diagnosed with colon cancer, a new study suggests.

But at least one cancer doctor not involved with the study was skeptical of the research and its conclusions.

The study found that people who ate the most dairy lived slightly longer and had a lower risk of dying from any cause.

"If you are a colorectal cancer patient, calcium and milk consumption may improve your survival. But do not change your diet just yet before more research is conducted," said lead researcher Peter Campbell, who's with the American Cancer Society's epidemiology research program. The new study, he noted, showed only an association between dairy and survival -- it could not prove that dairy consumption was the direct cause of increased longevity.

"If our findings are replicated in future studies, we may see changes in dietary guidelines for cancer survivors: patients might be encouraged to increase calcium and milk intake," Campbell added.

But, Dr. Donald Abrams, an integrative oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of an accompanying journal editorial, had significant doubts about the study.

"It's silly to look at milk in isolation, because [according to the study] the people who drank the most milk also were the leanest, did the most physical exercise, ate less red meat, and ate more fruits and vegetables," he said. "The message is it's the whole diet, not a single component."

On a technical point, Abrams doesn't believe that a study such as this is meaningful. "Investigators are going to try to write as many papers as they can from their data and chop it up into little reductionist pieces, when it's much better to look at nutrition and diet more holistically," he said.

The report was published online June 23 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

For the study, Campbell's team collected data on almost 2,300 people diagnosed between 1992 and 2009 with colon cancer that had not spread beyond the colon.

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