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expert reaction to study looking at dairy products and prostate cancer risk

Research, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, reports that dairy products may be linked with higher risk of prostate cancer. 


Prof Tom Sanders, Professor emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London, said:

“The methods used in this review suffer from a number of weaknesses, notably in the statistical analysis and presentation of the results that do not justify the strong conclusions drawn regarding dairy product consumption and risk of prostate cancer.

“The World Cancer Research Fund in a far more rigorous review finds being overweight/obese or tall were the only dietary factors probably associated with risk of prostate cancer; that review only considered dairy and calcium intake as a possible cause (i.e. insufficient evidence).  Vegans have about a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer than meat-eaters but this may reflect the fact they are usually much lighter than meat-eaters rather than the absence of dairy foods from their diets.

“It is notable that the incidence of prostate cancer is much higher in black men of African ethnic origin, who generally consume few dairy products, compared with white men.  The prevalence of prostate cancer has increased markedly in South East and East Asia, where few dairy products are consumed, which would indicate that life-style factors, other than dairy food consumption, are responsible from the global epidemic prostate cancer.”


‘Effect of plant- and animal-based foods on prostate cancer risk’ by John Shin et al. was published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association at 15:00 UK time on Monday 21 October 2019. 

DOI: 10.7556/jaoa.2019.123


Declared interests

Prof Tom Sanders: “Tom was one of the reviewers of this paper. Honorary Nutritional Director of HEART UK.  Scientific Governor of the British Nutrition Foundation.  He is now emeritus but when he was doing research at King’s College London, the following applied: Tom does not hold any grants or have any consultancies with companies involved in the production or marketing of sugar-sweetened drinks.  In reference to previous funding to Tom’s institution: £4.5 million was donated to King’s College London by Tate & Lyle in 2006; this funding finished in 2011.  This money was given to the College and was in recognition of the discovery of the artificial sweetener sucralose by Prof Hough at the Queen Elizabeth College (QEC), which merged with King’s College London.  The Tate & Lyle grant paid for the Clinical Research Centre at St Thomas’ that is run by the Guy’s & St Thomas’ Trust, it was not used to fund research on sugar.  Tate & Lyle sold their sugar interests to American Sugar so the brand Tate & Lyle still exists but it is no longer linked to the company Tate & Lyle PLC, which gave the money to King’s College London in 2006.  Tom also used to work for Ajinomoto on aspartame about 8 years ago.  Tom was a member of the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee that recommended that trans fatty acids be removed from the human food chain.  Tom has previously acted as a member of the Global Dairy Platform Scientific Advisory Panel and Tom is a member of the Programme Advisory Committee of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.  In the past Tom has acted as a consultant to Archer Daniel Midland Company and received honoraria for meetings sponsored by Unilever PLC.  Tom’s research on fats was funded by Public Health England/Food Standards Agency.”

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