Dairy products

Cancer Council Australia Position Statement on Dairy Foods, Calcium and Cancer 

Dairy foods

Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are a rich source of nutrients. They provide an excellent source of calcium and contain protein, vitamin and minerals.

What about the risk of dairy and cancer?

In terms of cancer risk, the current scientific evidence regarding dairy foods is inconclusive.

Milk probably decreases the risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer, and there is limited suggestive evidence suggesting that it can also reduce the risk of bladder cancer.

However, diets high in calcium are classed as a probable cause of prostate cancer, and in addition there is also limited suggestive evidence that a high intake of dairy products is also a cause of prostate cancer.

Should I eat dairy foods?

The current evidence that dairy products can protect against cancer or increase the risk of cancer is not conclusive.  Cancer Council Tasmania supports that the proven health benefits of dairy foods outweigh the unproven harms.

Dairy foods should be eaten as part of a varied and nutritious diet. Cancer Council Tasmania supports the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which encourage adults to eat at least two and a half serves of dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt) each day and to choose reduced fat varieties of dairy foods where possible.

What is a serve of dairy? 

One serve of dairy equals:

  • 1 cup (250mls) milk (fresh, UHT, long life or reconstituted powdered)
  • ½ cup evaporated unsweetened milk
  • 200g yoghurt
  • 40g cheese (roughly the size of a matchbox)

Practical and healthy ways to consume dairy foods include:

  • a milkshake made with skim milk and fresh banana or berries
  • low fat vanilla yoghurt with some passionfruit or natural muesli
  • a low fat yoghurt dip with vegetable sticks as a snack
  • a fruit salad topped with some low fat natural yoghurt
  • bake potatoes in the oven and stuff them with vegetables and grated low-fat tasty cheese
  • low fat cream cheese as a spread on sandwiches instead of butter
  • low fat natural yoghurt with chopped mint or coriander as an accompaniment to lamb or Indian flavoured dishes
  • shaved parmesan cheese over the top of pasta dishes and risottos
  • a bean dip made by mashing baked beans and adding some chilli and grated low fat tasty cheese before heating to serve.