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Study Links Milk to Ovarian Cancer

But Experts Say Results Do Not Mean Women Shouldn't Drink Milk

Weighing the Evidence

The studies assessing the role of dairy products in ovarian cancer have been contradictory. But American Cancer Society (ACS) spokeswoman Debbie Saslow, PhD, says the best of them do suggest a link. A report from an ongoing study involving 80,000 nurses in the U.S. published in 2000 found a 44% increase in ovarian cancer risk among frequent vs. infrequent milk drinkers.

Saslow says though the investigations suggest an association, none has proved that eating dairy causes ovarian cancer. She is director of breast and gynecological cancers for the ACS.

"I wouldn't want women to take from this study or the evidence as a whole that they should not drink milk or drink less milk," she tells WebMD. "Everything is a trade-off, and you have to weigh the risks and benefits. The benefits of dairy are apparent."

Known Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

The cause of ovarian cancer is not yet known, but certain factors increase the chance of getting ovarian cancer:

  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • Having never been pregnant
  • Being over the age of 50, since the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer increases with age

Studies show that women who have had children, who breastfeed, or who use birth control pills are less likely to develop ovarian cancer. These factors decrease the number of times a woman ovulates, and studies suggest that reducing the number of ovulations during a woman's lifetime may lower the risk of ovarian cancer.

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