The risk of developing the disease significantly increases over the age of 40 and 80% of men who live to 80 WILL have prostate cancer cells in their prostate.
About one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, fortunately the prostate cancer survival rates are very high, with only 1 in 36 men dying (in developed countries) from the disease.
As with ALL cancers, you can make a good guess whether the cause is down to a genetic mutation, lifestyle choices or a combination of both, but it’s impossible to pinpoint a specific cause of any cancer.
Research suggests 9 out of 10 cancers are caused by external factors such as sun, smoke, air pollution, diet, exercise etc.
This is great news because it means our lifestyle choices have a big influence over whether we develop prostate cancer (or any cancer).
So by choosing to live an optimally healthy life, which in very simple terms means eating a diet high in plants and whole foods, low in salt, maintaining a lean, strong body and avoiding excessive alcohol and no smoking.
You have the best chance of avoiding prostate cancer.
Conversely, if you’re overweight, eat a high proportion of red meat, animal fats, dairy, get little exercise and smoke and drink excessively.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to appreciate you’re probably at a higher risk of developing many cancers.
Milk Doesn’t Make Sense Biologically
Strange as it may seem, milk probably has no role in promoting optimum health.
This is contrary to what I’d believed for most of my lifetime. I’d have sworn that milk and dairy are an essential part of a healthy diet.
However the more I look into it, it seems I’ve been duped.
And so have many generations before me by dairy industries marketing campaigns who’ve made milk seem perhaps falsely healthy and sexy.
The idea that milk is good for humans was ingrained into my psyche from an early age. Each morning at school, from the age of 5 – 11, I received a government subsidised (usually lukewarm) bottle of full fat milk.
This has been an institution in the UK since 1906 when UK government began subsidising milk for children.
Nothing’s changed, they still want children to continue believing this idea, confirmed by this quote on their website –
“The EU school milk subsidy scheme encourages children to develop a lifelong habit of consuming milk and milk products.”
I find this worrying when humans would naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactase – the enzyme needed to properly metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk sometime between the ages of two and five if milk and dairy weren’t part of our diet.
The same is true for most mammals. They stop producing the enzymes needed to metabolize milk after they have been weaned…including calves.
But anyone who drank milk as a baby carries a working version of the gene that codes for lactase. In lactose tolerant individuals, that gene MAY keep working into adulthood with continued consumption.
However at anytime your body may stop lactase production and when we can’t properly metabolise milk, it can lead to diarrhea, nausea, and sometimes, vomiting, abdominal cramps, bloating and gas.
Dairy industries over decades have done a great job convincing our governments that milk is essential for good health, especially for children.
Yet, it would seem we don’t need it.
Frank Oski, former pediatric director at Johns Hopkins school of medicine, who wrote the book Don’t Drink Your Milk! suggests that after the first year
“the child requires no milk of any type. The child, like… adults, can thrive without cow milk ever crossing [its] lips.”
So Is The Myth That Milk is Good For You Coming to an End?
But even the first dairy farmers in Turkey didn’t drink milk researchers have discovered. They fermented milk, using it to make kefir and yogurt a process which removes lactose to a level most people can tolerate. Examinations of their bones found they were lactose intolerant.
So from a biological perspective, for most of us milk doesn’t really make sense. Our bodies haven’t been designed to digest milk on a regular basis.
You may be wondering about the nutrients in milk like the protein and calcium you think you need…
There is no dispute that milk contains important nutrients…for calves. They increase their body weight by around 35kg per month so they require the high levels of calcium and protein it contains.
But we don’t, humans managed very well for 3.4 million years during the stone age without dairy.
Analysis of stone age human remains from that period suggest stoneager’s developed a greater peak bone mass and experienced less age-related bone loss than do humans in the 20th Century.
Their bone health was excellent and calcium levels were twice that of today in hunter-gatherers who consumed no milk after weaning.
Milk is also a very good source of potassium, something many people are deficient in, one of the reasons why the USDA has urged Americans to drink more fat-free or low-fat milk and related dairy products.
But most fruit and vegetables are high in potassium too. There is no need to eat dairy for this or any other need.
A medium sized banana contains more potassium than a cup of low fat milk and as far as I know, bananas pose no risk to our health.
So it seems strange the USDA aren’t encouraging people to eat more plants…maybe bananas are a threat?!
Researchers at Harvard don’t believe dairy is an essential part of a healthy diet.
Most of science agrees that we can get all the calcium, potassium, protein, and fats we need from other food sources, like whole plant foods — vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and seaweed.
Nobody can dispute that cow’s milk is an excellent food source for calves, but it isn’t custom-designed for humans and unlike humans, once calves are weaned, they never drink their mother’s milk again.
This principle applies to every mammal on this planet. We stop drinking breast milk when we don’t need it anymore.
So why do we consume something that’s been created for growing baby cows?
9000 years ago it may have seemed like the right thing to do, it’s an idea that has stood the test of time but we once believed the earth was flat.
That misunderstanding stuck around for centuries; maybe the myth that dairy is good for us is slowly coming to the end of it’s life too.
The Links Between Milk The Causes of Prostate Cancer
That said, as mentioned earlier there are very plausible links between dairy and the cause of prostate cancer. Major studies suggesting a link between milk and the cause of prostate cancer have been appearing since the 1970s.
Five studies comparing cancer patients to healthy individuals found a similar association. One of these, conducted in northern Italy, found that frequent dairy consumption could increase risk by two and one-half times.
A cohort study of 20,000 male physicians by Harvard School of Public Health in 2000 concluded that those who consumed more than two dairy servings daily had a 34% higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men who consumed little or no dairy products.
Several other studies have shown similar results.
The Harvard research was undertaken by a big hitter in the field of nutrition – Walter Willett, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology and head of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health.
He is the second most cited author in clinical medicine. In an interview with Webmd he said
“By now there’s quite a body of data showing a higher risk of fatal prostate cancer associated with milk”
Another proponent of reducing dairy intake is author of The China Study T Colin Campbell, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. In his book he says –
“cows’ milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed”.
If you’re new to his work The China Study is a book based on the largest comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted.
It was launched via a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. The groundbreaking results from the study (and other influential nutrition research) recommend the best diet for long-term health.
How Does Milk Cause Prostate Cancer?
The reason T Colin Campbell says this about milk is because of casein, a protein found in milk from mammals. The China Study suggests that animal-derived proteins “turn on” cancer cells carcinogenesis at the cellular level and that plant foods (including plant derived proteins) can “turn off” cancer cells, also at the cellular level.
In multiple, peer-reviewed studies, researchers discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.
This lab test investigating the proliferation of prostate cancer cells treated with casein, the main protein in milk which was proven to promote the proliferation of prostate cancer cells such as PC3 and LNCaP by 144% and 166% respectively.
They found organic cow’s milk stimulated the growth of human prostate cancer cells in each of 14 separate experiments, producing an average increase in cancer growth rate of over 30%. As a point of interest, In contrast, almond milk suppressed the growth of these cancer cells by over 30%.
This was initially postulated based on suggestive population-scale data like a 25 fold increase in prostate cancer in Japan since World War II. Japanese men’s dairy consumption has increased 20 fold since 1945, whereas the rest of their diet has remained pretty stable.
Similarly, countries with higher milk consumption tend to have more prostate cancer deaths and countries with lower milk consumption fewer deaths.
The Prostate Caner Risk From rBGH
If you drink non organic milk in the U.S you’re likely to be ingesting rBGH, a genetically engineered form of bovine growth hormone (rBGH). A man-made or synthetic hormone used to artificially increase milk production, rBGH also increases blood levels of the insulin-growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in those who drink it.
rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada but approved for use in the U.S. in 1993 by the Food and Drug Administration.
IGF-1 has been shown to stimulate the proliferation of prostate cancer cells in culture and epidemiological studies have established a link between high circulating serum IGF-1 levels and the risk of later developing advanced prostate cancer
Meta Analysis Findings Indicating a Strong Link
Meta-analysis is a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies, it does this by combining data from controlled research done on the same matter.
This meta-analysis study from 2004, 2007 and again this one from 2014 all conclude that milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer.
This 2015 meta analysis to discover whether specific dairy products or calcium sources are associated with prostate cancer risk, found that high intakes of dairy milk, low-fat milk, cheese, and total, dietary, and dairy calcium, may increase total prostate cancer risk.
A further important study parents should be aware of is this Icelandic research which suggests that milk intake during adolescence may be a factor for developing prostate cancer later in life.
What to Do Now?
Researchers will still be studing what the causes of prostate cancer are for years to come and milk producers and aficionados will continue to argue the health benefits of the white stuff.
However I think, there’s already sufficient evidence to suggest that milk and dairy COULD cause long term damage to your health (and your sons) and be a potential cause of prostate cancer.
And as a health-conscious man, if you’ve not considered the impact milk and dairy are having on your health you may want to consider reducing your dairy intake.
One of the first steps you can take is trading milk for a plant based alternative such as almond, soy or rice milk. There are pluses and minuses for all milk substitutes, but from a taste perspective my favourite is almond and as mentioned it may actually help to reduce prostate cancer.
This is a really easy switch and it will cut your milk intake considerably. If you drink 3 cups of tea of coffee and in each one have 20ml or milk that will reduce your milk intake by 218.4 litres per year.
You don’t have to quit dairy completely. I did for about 18 months but at the moment I’m still eating cheese and yogurt from time to time. The fermenting process removes most of the lactose make it digestible for most.
Although this doesn’t remove the casein or dairy calcium, so I may reconsider my stance on this and only use organic cheese to avoid exposure to hormones and antibiotics used in normal dairy farming.
I used to be very dogmatic about what I eat, but the greater awareness I have about food and nutrition, the less rules I feel I need to make, but you might have different ideas.
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