Lactose Intolerance May Lower Cancer Risk

First Posted: Nov 07, 2014 05:12 PM EST

Many lactose intolerant individuals may actually have a health advantage. Recent findings published in the British Journal of Cancer show how this medical issue may protect some against breast, lung and ovarian cancers.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden found that people who cannot properly digest lactose--a sugar in milk and dairy products--had a reduced risk of the aforementioned cancers when compared to the general population. However, they believe much of the lowered risk has to do with diet and not the health problem, alone. 

For the study, researchers conducted a risk examination of 22,788 individuals with lactose intolerance in Sweden. However, they found that siblings and relatives of lactose intolerant individuals had risks that were similar to the general population--showing that much of this decreased risk is based on diet.

"The risks of lung cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer were significantly lower in people with lactose intolerance compared to people without lactose intolerance, irrespective of country of birth and gender," said lead study author of the university's associate professor Jianguang Ji, in a news release

Furthermore, the findings pointed out how high consumption of dairy products in North America and West Europe can increase the risk of cancer, in some isntances.

"We must interpret these results with caution because the association we found is insufficient to conclude a causative effect. Further studies are needed to identify factors that explain the study's results," Ji concluded.

The researchers reiterated that milk consumption is not linked to a high cancer risk based on the study findings.

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