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Diets High in Dairy May Boost Cancer Survival Rates

A study found that people who ate the most dairy lived slightly longer and had a lower risk of dying from any cause. Colon cancer patients who had a dairy-rich diet lived slightly longer than those who did not.

The study was done by a team at the American Cancer Society’s epidemiology research program and indicates calcium and milk may boost survival rates among colon cancer patients.

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

By 2010, 949 patients had died, roughly half or 408 of them from cancer. Scientists found that those who ate the most dairy and therefore received the highest amounts of dietary calcium lived slightly longer. The authors say their finding was “marginally statistically significant.”

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

“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,” lead researcher Peter Campbell of the American Cancer Society’s epidemiology research program, told HealthDay. The new study shows only an association between dairy and survival — not that dairy consumption is the direct cause of increased longevity.

Those who drank the most milk had a 28 percent lower risk of dying from any cause.

Study authors believe the survival benefit may be from the calcium in dairy, not the vitamin D. They also suggest that calcium may hinder cancer-cell growth and its ability to settle in sites far away from the original cancer.

But Dr. Donald Abrams, an Integrative Oncologist at the University of California, doesn’t believe that the findings are sound.

“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,” Abrams told HealthDay. “The message is, it’s the whole diet, not a single component.”

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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