Once upon a future time, we may live in a world without dairy—and look back on the food that we once thought was healthy. and realize it actually contributed to a host of increased risk of disease.  That day just got a little closer with the publication of a study in The American Clinical Journal of Nutrition. It is just one more major piece of scientific evidence that it's time to ditch dairy. Titled “Total and added sugar intakes, sugar types, and cancer risk" it looked at cancer risk in over 100,000 participants in a French longitudinal study from 2009-2019 in order to find the associations between total and added sugar intake and cancer risk (overall, breast, and prostate), taking into account sugar types and sources including lactose.

Recent Study Finds Link Between Dairy and Cancer

While sugar has long been vilified, this study looked at the type of sugars in a person's diet. and found that total sugar intake was associated with higher overall cancer risk and if you reduce your sugar intake, your cancer risk may decrease. The sugar in milk, dairy, ice cream and other desserts were among those that added to increased cancer risk. "Sugars may represent a modifiable risk factor for cancer prevention (breast in particular)," the study concluded. That, in turn, impacts sugar taxation, marketing regulation, and other sugar-related policies.

Beyond potentially reducing your cancer risk, there are10 health reasons to give up dairy, include lowering heart disease risk and even erasing dark under-eye circles. When you ditch dairy,“ you may experience improved digestion and less bloating and gas,"  according to The Nutrition Twins Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D.N., C.D.N., C.F.T., C.L.T., and Lyssie Lakatos, R.D.N., C.D.N., C.F.T., C.L.T.  They point out that 65 percent of the population is either lactose intolerant or has a reduced ability to digest lactose, which can cause symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain and cramping to gas and diarrhea.

You can reduce your exposure to toxins and chemicals found in conventional dairy products—hormones and antibiotics. And you could possibly lose weight simply by cutting out a source of calories,” they add. Plus eliminating dairy has a side benefit to the planet since cows contribute to climate change: “Dairy production is a large contributor to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions,” they explain. The manure from cow’s releases nitrous oxide, which is a pollutant that contributes to global warming and is nearly 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.”

Negative Health Effects of Dairy

When it comes to the dangers of dairy, this new study isn’t the only one linking dairy consumption to increased risk of cancer. A 2005 study from Medical Hypotheses on the possible role of estrogen in cow's milk that gets passed from lactating cows into our bodies appears to have an adverse effect for women, driving up the risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers, and in men increases the risk of prostate cancer.

Two renowned Harvard doctors, Dr. Walter C. Willett and Dr. David S. Ludwig from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, wrote a paper, "Miljk and Health," published in The New England Journal of Medicine, in which they wrote: "...consumption of dairy products is strongly correlated with rates of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancers." Their conclusion, after reviewing the data, is "that the recommendation to increase daily servings of dairy was not justified.”

Worth noting: Some studies have linked milk consumption to a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer which Willett and Ludwig write is "potentially owing to its high calcium content." You can get calcium on a plant-based diet by eating dark leafy vegetables, and

“The [2005] study above showed that when female cows are pregnant and milked, which is highly common, it increases the risk of hormone-related cancers (breast, ovarian, and corpus uteri cancer. Milk and cheese consumption showed the highest correlation to the cancers,”  Lakatos Shames and Lakatos explain, noting that things aren’t encouraging on the prostate cancer front for men when it comes to consuming dairy.

In his book, Your Body in Balance: The  New Science of Food, Hormones and Health, Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), writes that the estrogen in dairy is especially dangerous when consumed in cheese, because there is even more estrogen present in that condensed form of dairy. Barnard has advocated for a warning label on all cheese products that tells consumers: Cheese may raise your risk of cancer, especially breast cancer.

“[A 2014 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition] shows that drinking milk is consistently linked with a greater risk of prostate cancer, especially aggressive or deadly forms,” they add, stressing that men who drink milk regularly should keep this in mind.

A smarter bet: Choose almond milk or other plant-based creamers in your coffee to start your day, and end it with a scoop of dairy-free ice cream.