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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2000 Jan;9(1):95-101.

A case-control study of galactose consumption and metabolism in relation to ovarian cancer.

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Ob-Gyn Epidemiology Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Consumption or metabolism of dairy sugar and ovarian cancer have been linked based on evidence that galactose may be toxic to ovarian germ cells and that ovarian cancer is induced in animals by depletion of oocytes. We assessed consumption of dairy products and obtained blood for biochemical and molecular genetic assessment of galactose metabolism in 563 women with newly diagnosed epithelial ovarian cancer and 523 control women selected either by random digit dialing or through lists of residents in eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We observed no significant differences between cases and controls in usual consumption of various types of dairy products or total daily lactose (the principal source of galactose in the diet); nor did we find that RBC activity of either galactose-1-phosphate uridyl transferase (GALT) or galactokinase differed. The mean (and SE) activity of uridine diphospho-galactose 4'-epimerase (in micromoles per hour per gram of hemoglobin) was, however, significantly lower (P < 0.005) in cases compared with controls, 20.32 (0.31) versus 21.64 (0.36). Ovarian cancer cases were also more likely to carry the N314D polymorphism of the GALT gene, generally predisposing to lower GALT activity. The difference was most evident for endometrioid and clear cell types of ovarian cancer, in which 3.9% of cases were found to be homozygous for N314D compared with 0.4% of controls, yielding an odds ratio and 95% confidence interval of 14.17 (2.62-76.60). We conclude that, whereas adult consumption of lactose carries no clear risk for the disease, certain genetic or biochemical features of galactose metabolism may influence disease risk for particular types of ovarian cancer.

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