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Milk cleared as cancer risk

Friday May 7th, 2010

New findings today exonerate milk from allegations that it contributes to the development of kidney cancer.

An earlier study indicated an association, so Dr Nicholas Timpson of Bristol University, UK, and colleagues investigated further.

Although there is a strong link, there may be other explanations - such as that some people drink more milk than others because of their genetic make-up.

They analysed figures taken from hospitals in four central and eastern European countries between 1999 and 2003, using a genetic variant of the gene MCM6, linked to lactose tolerance, as a marker for milk consumption.

Overall, adult milk drinkers had a 35 per cent higher rate of renal cancer than others. But when the relationship was assessed in a more direct way - using genetic data - there was no association.

Dr Timpson said: "The data in this study provide no concrete evidence of a need to alter milk drinking in any way. The failure of genetic findings to replicate the association between milk and renal cell cancer suggests that fears that milk consumption might elevate cancer risk are likely to be unfounded.

"We found evidence for the often-questioned relationship between milk consumption and cancer, yet when we used genotypes to verify this relationship, there was no corroboratory evidence.

"This does suggest that the basic findings may be subject to the kinds of biases and inaccuracies that often upset epidemiological research," he added, "but this study would need to be undertaken on a much larger scale in order to verify these initial findings."

Full results are published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Journal editor Dr Johanna Lampe added: "These results are a reminder to proceed with caution when interpreting data that suggest an association between intake of specific foods and risk of a particular cancer."

Timpson, N. J. et al. Can Lactase Persistence Genotype Be Used to Reassess the Relationship between Renal Cell Carcinoma and Milk Drinking? Potentials and Problems in the Application of Mendelian Randomization. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Vol. 19, May 2010, pp. 1341-48.

Tags: Cancer | Diet & Food | Genetics | Internal Medicine | UK News

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