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Milk & Endometrial Cancer

I remember Janice Walters. She was born in Cooperstown, New York. We were friends and colleagues forty years ago in 1972, and we did research in the field of neuroendocrinology, and shared an arena in which we performed brain surgery on Long & Evans hooded lab rats. Three things stand out in my memory of Janice. She was quite skinny, barely reaching 90 pounds in weight. Janice could not hold her beer very well. In those days, the drinking age was 18. One beer got her drunk. Two beers got her silly. The third thing I remember is that Janice was often in severe pain during the two years in which our paths crossed due to a continuous condition of endometrial bleeding. The endometrium is the lining of a woman's uterus.

I thought of Janice early one recent morning while searching and reviewing publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals as I do each morning.

The following study will appear in the June 1, 2012 issue of the International Journal of Cancer (Ganmaa D, Cui X, Feskanich D, Hankinson SE, Willett WC).

Researchers at the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA; Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School examined milk and dairy intake, comparing it to the risk of endometrial cancer. The data that they reviewed was compiled over a 26-year period from over 68,000 human subjects.

In their abstract, the researchers write:

"Estrogens have a central role in the etiology of endometrial cancer. Milk and dairy products are a source of steroid hormones and growth factors that might have physiological effects in humans."

After rigorous review of the enormity of data, scientists concluded:

"In conclusion, we observed a marginally significant overall association between dairy intake and endometrial cancer and a stronger association among postmenopausal women who were not using estrogen-containing hormones."

On January 20, 2009, Notmilk reported the results of a study which showed that higher intakes of vegetables resulted lower incidences of endometrial cancer (EC). See:

Yet, not until today do we have a peer-reviewed study showing that it's not necessarily what one eats, but what one does not eat which makes the difference when it comes to EC.

Notmilk had previously offered links to dairy consumption and ovarian and uterine cancers... ...and of course, to breast cancers: How many degrees of separation are there? In 1972, we who were well versed in endocrinogy had no clue that cow's milk contained so many of the same steroid hormones which we were investigating. With six degrees or six hundred or six thousand degrees of separation, there might just be one Notmilk reader who knows the fate of my friend, Janice Walters. I hope that her endometriosis did not claim Janice's life. She would be in her young sixties today.

Robert Cohen

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