No, cow’s milk is not the most important carcinogen ever identified

An article published on the website Exoportail claims that casein, a protein contained in milk, is the most important carcinogen known. This statement is largely contradicted by the scientific literature.

This thesis comes from a book published in 2005 by an American biochemist named Colin Campbell. In this book, entitled The China Study, the author draws links between the consumption of products of animal origin and several diseases. He points the finger casein, a protein contained in cow’s milk, but also in breast milk.

The author explains that he analyzed data from a study, that he conducted with a group of researchers on thousands of people in rural China during the 1980s.

In an interview with the newspaper Libération, the British researcher Richard Peto, who collaborated in the study of Colin Campbell, refutes the statements of the latter. He explained that milk including clarifed butter (ghee in english) consumption in China during this period was too low to draw any conclusions.

Lower risk of colorectal cancer

A large number of researchers have examined the links between dairy consumption and the prevalence of certain cancers.

Many of these studies conclude that dairy consumers have a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer (New Window) and bladder cancer.

Researchers who have examined the risk of breast and stomach cancer have not found a clear correlation.

It is only for prostate cancer  that studies show that milk is a risk factor. However, it is not the casein that is involved, but rather the calcium that comes from milk.

What is the most carcinogenic agent?

The term “cancer” is used to describe a hundred diseases whose causes are diverse. It is therefore impossible to establish a single risk factor.

Many cancers are influenced by lifestyle habits such as smoking. Others are caused by radiation, such as ultraviolet rays. Finally, some cancers develop as a result of infections such as that of the human papillomavirus.

However, more than 60% of cancers can not be attributed to hereditary causes or environmental causes, and would be caused by unpredictable genetic mutations.

With regard to cancers influenced by environmental factors, the World Health Organization (WHO) is categorical: tobacco is by far the most important risk factor, and more than 50 components of smoke of cigarettes are carcinogenic.

Alcohol and various environmental pollutants are also on the list of carcinogens identified by WHO. Casein and calcium are not, however, part of it.

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