Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Dairy product consumption and development of cancer: an overview of reviews
  1. Maya M Jeyaraman1,2,
  2. Ahmed M Abou-Setta1,2,
  3. Laurel Grant3,
  4. Farnaz Farshidfar1,
  5. Leslie Copstein1,
  6. Justin Lys1,
  7. Tania Gottschalk4,
  8. Danielle Desautels3,5,6,
  9. Piotr Czaykowski2,3,5,6,
  10. Marshall Pitz2,3,5,6,7,
  11. Ryan Zarychanski1,2,3,5,6,7
  1. 1 The George & Fay Yee Center for Healthcare Innovation, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  3. 3 Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  4. 4 Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  5. 5 Department of Internal Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  6. 6 Department of Medical Oncology and Hematology, Cancer Care Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  7. 7 Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology, University of Manitoba and CancerCare Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Maya M Jeyaraman; maya.jeyaraman{at}


Objectives To provide a comprehensive systematic overview of current evidence from pooled analyses/meta-analyses and systematic reviews (PMASRs) pertaining to dairy consumption and incident cancer and/or all-cause or cancer-specific mortality.

Design Overview of reviews.

Setting Community setting.

Participants The unit of analysis is PMASRs. A total of 42 PMASRs was included in this overview of reviews.

Interventions/exposures Any dairy product consumption (eg, milk, yogurt, etc).

Primary and secondary outcomes measures Primary outcome measure is development of any type of cancer. Secondary outcome measures are all-cause mortality and cancer-specific mortality.

Results From 9693 citations identified, we included 42 PMASRs (52 study reports) published between 1991 and 2017. Thirty-one (74%) of these was pooled analyses/meta analyses, and only 11 (26%) were systematic reviews and meta-analyses. There was a wide variability in the type of study designs included within the other PMASRs, thus contributing to variable and, in instances, divergent estimates of cancer risk for several cancer subtypes. For example, only one systematic review and meta-analysis exclusively included prospective study designs. Most PMASRs were of low to moderate quality based on the Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) scores. The median AMSTAR score was 5 (IQR 2–7). Our overview identified conflicting evidence from PMASRs on association between dairy consumption and incident cancers or mortality. Heterogeneity in summary estimates reflected the inclusion of variable study designs and overall low methodological quality of individual PMASRs.

Conclusions The association between dairy consumption and cancer risk has been explored in PMASRs with a variety of study designs and of low to moderate quality. To fully characterise valid associations between dairy consumption and risk of cancer and/or mortality rigorously conducted, PMASRs including only high-quality prospective study designs are required.

Trial registration number CRD42017078463.

  • dairy
  • dairy products
  • cancer
  • overview of reviews

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Contributors MMJ and RZ were involved in coordination of all aspects of this study, including protocol development and manuscript preparation. TG was involved in the development of search strategies for various databases. LG, LC, FF and JL were involved in the study selection process, data extraction and quality assessment. DD, PC and MP are experts in cancer research and provided content expertise during the design and conduct of the study. AMA-S, RZ and MMJ are experts in systematic review methodology and provided guidance on appropriate methodology for conducting this overview of reviews. All authors contributed to the design of the study and critically reviewed the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data can be obtained from the corresponding author on request.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.