A new study has shown that drinking lots of milk may reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer. Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer (cancer arising from the lining of the large intestine or the rectum) is the third most common form of the disease worldwide. In order to assess the relationship between consuming dairy food (i.e. increasing calcium intake) and colorectal risk, the researchers analyzed results from 10 studies, which included half a million people. Out of this, approximately 5000 people developed bowel cancer during the follow-up.
Among the different sources of calcium that were examined by the researchers only milk intake was found to be associated with a reduced risk of bowel cancer especially cancer of the distal (i.e. latter part) colon and the rectum. However, the study did not find a significant reduction of risk associated with other dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt.
The researchers found that the risk of bowel cancer decreased with increased milk intake. People who consumed 175-249g of milk daily showed a 12% reduction in risk of colorectal cancer and those who consumed more than 250 g of milk/day showed a 15% decrease in the risk. It was found drinking two glasses of milk (eight ounce each) per day was associated with a 12% decrease in risk of bowel cancer.
It was also found that increased total calcium intake was associated with less risk of colorectal cancer. Increasing the calcium intake to about 1000 mg or more daily may result in 15% less cases of colorectal cancer in women and 10% fewer cases in men.
Hence, the study suggests that higher consumption of milk and calcium is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. However the exact mechanism that helps milk prevent colorectal cancer is not known clearly. According to researchers one can also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and foods that are high in fiber; by reducing intake of fat and of red and processed meat.