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Nutr Res Rev. 2008 Jun;21(1):56-67. doi: 10.1017/S0954422408035920.

Intake of dairy products and risk of colorectal neoplasia.

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Diet and Gastrointestinal Health Group, Nutritional Sciences Division, King's College London, London, UK.


Prospective cohort studies suggest that higher intakes of dairy products, in particular milk, are associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC). In Western populations, dairy products are major contributors to dietary Ca, which may have chemopreventive effects in the colon. The pooling of data from prospective studies suggests a significant protective effect of Ca on CRC risk. Randomised controlled trials with Ca supplements have been conducted with both colorectal adenoma and CRC as endpoints. Results suggest that Ca supplementation at a level of 1000-2000 mg/d reduces adenoma recurrence in individuals with a previous adenoma but has no effect on CRC incidence. There is evidence that the risk reduction from dairy foods may not be solely due to their high Ca content. Dairy products contain other potential chemopreventive components such as vitamin D, butyric acid, conjugated linoleic acid, sphingolipids, and probiotic bacteria in fermented products such as yoghurt. The present review will focus on the epidemiological evidence (and in particular prospective cohort studies) investigating the relationship between dairy product consumption and risk of CRC. An outline of the proposed mechanisms responsible for the protective effect of both Ca and other potential chemopreventive components in dairy products will also be presented.

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