Sperling Prostate Center

Prostate Cancer, Calcium and Dairy Products

UPDATE: 2/23/2023
Originally published 4/15/2015

The blog below, originally posted in April, 2015, pointed rather alarmingly to dairy products and calcium supplements as risk factors for prostate cancer (PCa), with a call for more research into the apparent association. Therefore, it’s worth updating with information from two more recent studies in 2021 and 2022.

  1. Sargsyan & Dubasi (2021) confirm broad evidence for a link between higher dairy product intake and greater PCa risk.[i] It turns out whether milk is whole milk, low-fat, or skim doesn’t seem to matter; there are studies that correlate each type with higher PCa risk. Interestingly, the authors note some suggestion that estrogen content in milk (given to cows to increase production) may play a role in PCa risk, since estrogen levels can affect PCa development. In addition, milk fat may be a factor, since it has been observed “… that the low fat milk intake was associated with greater risk of non-aggressive form of the disease and whole milk was associated with greater risk of fatal prostate cancer. The association between the risk of developing prostate cancer and dairy products has been linked to the fact that dairy products raise the concentrations of insulin like growth factors.”
  2. The 2022 paper by Orlich, et al. is based on 28,737 Seventh Day Adventist men (U.S. and Canada), an entire demographic population. In this group, consumption of dairy and non-dairy calcium was correlated with PCa risk. While non-dairy calcium (e.g. plant-based) did not appear to raise risk, the authors write, “Men with higher intake of dairy foods, but not nondairy calcium, had a higher risk of prostate cancer compared with men having lower intakes.”[ii]

Thus, in the nearly eight years between the blog below and this update, the data has not changed. High consumption of dairy products seems to increase the chances of developing PCa. Since calcium is important, talk to your doctor or nutritionist about excellent plant-based sources in your diet.


I’ve been writing quite a bit lately on diet and nutrition as these relate to prostate cancer. Certain foods with cardiac and neurological benefits are also linked with reduced risk of prostate cancer, which is reassuring. However, that good old standby for bone and dental health, calcium, may not be as great for prostate health.

A new article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines the connection between calcium (both dairy products and supplements) and prostate cancer risk.[iii] The authors represent institutions in Norway and the United Kingdom, both countries with fairly steady consumption of milk, yogurt and cheese over the past decade. The team searched publication databases for all articles up to April, 2013 on the intake of dairy products and calcium to analyze the connection, if any, with prostate cancer risk.

They identified 32 studies, and calculated the intakes of total dairy products, total milk, low-fat milk, cheese and dietary calcium—and discovered an association with increased total prostate cancer risk for high intakes of these products. As if that weren’t enough, supplemental calcium was associated with increased risk of fatal prostate cancer. However, the results were not equally weighted. Some types of dairy products and sources of calcium were more associated with increased risk than others, suggesting to the authors that other components of dairy besides fat and calcium may be the culprits. They call for further studies that include “detailed results for subtypes of prostate cancer.” In other words, can research identify which dairy components, and which sources of calcium, correlate with risks of aggressive cancers? The answers lie in the future.

Good bone health is not just for the young. No matter how old we are, we need to nourish our bones and teeth. Calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients are essential for our bones, but there are excellent non-dairy calcium sources. Many of these help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, such as nuts (see my blog at https://sperlingprostatecenter.com/nutty-diet-change-improves-prostate-cancer-survival-rates/). In addition, consider including more of the following in your meals: canned salmon and sardines; leafy green vegetables such as spinach or collard greens; broccoli; oysters; and black-eyed peas. Also, if you enjoy dairy products, think about buying organic products. Many of the pesticides and herbicides that get into the food chain (think of the grass and grain eaten by dairy cows) are known carcinogens.

Remember to maintain a balanced diet. Avoid overdoing it on dairy products and if you take calcium supplements, do your homework on the source of the calcium. Vegetable-derived calcium is generally easier for your body to absorb than mineral-derived calcium, so consider researching these supplements on the internet. Many manufacturers cite published studies on their sites, but remember due diligence: look up the studies on pubmed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ and read the abstracts for yourself.

Finally, share your concerns with your doctor, who may be able to refer you to a nutritionist. Each of us is unique, and understanding the results of your tests (from your physical) and your health history can help you determine the right food plan for you.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Sargsyan A, Dubasi HB. Milk Consumption and Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review. World J Mens Health. 2021 Jul;39(3):419-428.
[ii] Orlich MJ, Mashchak AD, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Utt JT et al. Dairy foods, calcium intakes, and risk of incident prostate cancer in Adventist Health Study-2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022 Aug 4;116(2):314-324.
[iii] Aune D, Navarro Rosenblatt DA, Chan DS et al. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jan;101(1):87-117.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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