The Casein Cancer Link or Why you Should Ditch that Milk for Good

by Guest
Oct 24, 2016

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african american woman with white nails and black shirt holding a glass of milk next to her face
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People love their milk and dairy! Americans guzzle up about 64.9 million gallons a year. The mere mention of taking cheese away from some people gives them serious anxiety. I drank milk by the gallon as a little kid. Good old fashioned whole milk.

Why wouldn’t I? We were told that we needed it to grow and thrive. Everyone craved a milk mustache because it was sexy and strong. We saw pictures of cows grazing in meadows and happily walking over to be gently milked by a nice farmer. Milk was wholesome and necessary.

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Fortunately for me, by my early teens, milk was making me very sick. Yes, I did say fortunately, because what I now know about dairy makes me extremely happy that for most of my life I have avoided it. I often wondered what I would become without dairy. How would I have bones that didn’t break and teeth that were strong and white?

In short, I was brainwashed. Learning what I now know about cow’s milk and it’s most prevalent protein casein, has me thrilled that my kids have never had it either. They have always drunk almond, hemp, and soy milks… or as they are called: plant milks.

What is casein?

Casein and whey are the proteins found in all types of animal milks. It differs in concentrations in different types of milk and is the highest in cow’s milk (87%). People like to compare breast milk to cow’s milk and point out that we drink milk when we come out of the womb, so it is great for us. The two really don’t compare.

As a point of reference, there are 2.5 gms of protein in a cup of breast milk, and 8.2 gms of protein in a cup of cow’s milk and the casein to whey ratio in cow’s milk is 80/20 and breast milk is 40/60. As we can see, there is considerably more casein in cow’s milk than in the perfect first food, breast milk.

This is also the time that we grow the most in a short period of time - from the average birth weight of 7 pounds to 20 pounds in just a year. That means the baby has almost tripled! 

When we compare this to a cow who weighs around 1000 pounds at one year whose birth weight was just 60 pounds… that’s not just a 300% but a 1566% increase in weight! This is why calves do need more casein and protein than humans. It’s also the only time mammals grow that much - after that, we don’t need as much protein anymore and can even keep it at 10% or less of our daily calories.

3 Phases of Cancer

It helps to know a bit about how cancer works and what the different phases of this disease mean to understand how dairy and animal protein enter the picture. 

1. Initiation

It is safe to say that cancer is probably lurking in most of our bodies. We have all, as we get into adulthood, been exposed to at least one carcinogen (found in our environment, or our food supply) that was absorbed into the blood and then transported into various cells. This exposure is where the initiation phase of cancer begins.

2. Promotion

The promotion phase happens when cancerous cells cluster and form detectable tumors. This is the slow process that takes months or years and is the process that casein effects. It is the process that furthers cancer along (unless it is halted) until it is detected.

3. Progression

Progression is the final phase when cancer is discovered and often further metastasizes. Metastasize means that cells from the initial cancerous tumor from a specific organ (like the breast), have spread out and taken over the neighboring organs and tissues (bones or liver for example.)

Studies done on Animal Protein and Cancer

t colin campbell

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who grew up living on a dairy farm, decided to pursue his education in nutrition, biochemistry, and toxicology. He was trained at Cornell University (M.S., Ph.D.) and MIT (Research Associate) and has devoted his life to educating the public about nutrition, as well as sharing research results from his over 300 research papers.

He is a beyond credible source. One of his first research projects as a student involved feeding children in the Philippines. They were trying to come up with how to feed too many starving children. He took note of the fact that many of the wealthy children in the country were being diagnosed with a rare type of liver cancer.

He started looking into why the fact was that the wealthier children were getting this type of cancer, while the poorer ones generally weren't. Upon looking at their diets, it was revealed that the wealthier kids ate a lot more animal protein, as they had more access to it, than the poorer children. He wondered if animal protein intake could be the answer.

Indian Casein Cancer Study

He started researching this connection and came upon a study conducted by Indian researchers where rats were exposed to something very carcinogenic to them called aflatoxin (the same toxin that the Philippine kids were exposed to).

The Indian researchers showed that, in the rats, decreasing protein (casein was the protein used in their study) intake from the usual level of consumption of 20% to 5% completely prevented this very powerful carcinogen from causing cancer. Keeping levels at 20% caused cancer in the animals.

Dr. Campbell’s Studies

Dr. Campbell conducted a similar study himself and the results were astounding. By adjusting the amount of dietary protein (he used casein as the protein source in his studies) he could control cancer growth.

He also varied the amount of protein between 5% and 20% in another experiment, with other animal proteins (from fish and livestock) and with plant proteins (for instance, gluten and soy) and none of the rats in the 10-20% plant based protein diet groups developed cancer even when they were given higher aflatoxin doses! Only the animal proteins promoted cancer.

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The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted
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The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted
If you're interested in reading about Dr. Campbell's studies in depth, we recommend getting his most famous work The China Study.

Confusing the public

So why, you may ask yourself, have we not all heard about these connections between casein and cancer, and animal protein and cancer? Why are we still drinking milk by the gallons? Have you heard of a little known 20 billion dollar business called the dairy industry?

If you have, then you have your answer. They are experts at promoting lies and unfounded research. They influence government and have great ad campaigns. They convince us that without milk our bones will crumble and our bodies wither away.

Keep in mind that we are not supposed to drink giraffe’s milk or dog’s milk, not even chimpanzee's milk (though this would make a lot more sense) - no, we supposedly need to drink the milk of a 2,000 pounds mammal. And what’s more, we are the only species that drinks the milk from another species!

How much sense does that make, especially when we keep in mind that we don’t possess the enzyme to break down lactose, milk sugar, properly after infancy? No wonder 75% of the world’s population cannot handle dairy. But are they really lactose intolerant or just not a cow?

Take a look at this short video to get a grasp of the milk industry's astounding public influence:

Dropping Dairy From your Diet

So how can we go about cutting out dairy from our diet? Some common concerns about dropping dairy include...

Where will I get my calcium from?
How will my kids grow up to be big and strong?
Where will I get my milk mustache from?

More and more studies are showing that calcium is better absorbed by plant sources. A 2005 review published in Pediatrics showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children. Many studies have proven the same in adults trying to avoid osteoporosis.

Dairy consumption sets up an acidic environment in which calcium is absorbed less optimally in our bodies. When we cut dairy from our diets, we need to include other sources like calcium fortified plant milks, orange juice, beans, greens, tofu, broccoli, and almonds. Calcium is an important mineral so we do need to take care to get enough of it. Read more about the calcium myth and good plant calcium sources in this article and in the infographic at the bottom of this article.

Veggie Kids

plant based kids

Some older studies suggest that the growth of vegetarian and vegan children is more gradual than that of omnivorous—in other words, veggie children grow a bit more slowly at first, but they catch up later on. Final heights and weights for vegan children are comparable to those of meat-eating children.

This is due to getting less growth-stimulating hormones from their diet but at the same time, it means a decreased risk for cancer. Veggie kids might hit puberty a little later but once again, that’s a good thing and they end up just as tall as others. No newer study suggests that children might have any disadvantages by skipping dairy.

The “protein deficiencies” that our parents stressed about were occurring in impoverished countries and were the result of starvation or diets restricted to very few food items. A well-rounded diet without dairy is sure to reach calcium and protein levels. 

Finally, plant milks produce one heck of a frothy, cancer free milk mustache. To re-coin an old phrase, “Hemp milk. Does a body good.” Has a nice ring to it.

about the author.

Chrissy Roth is a physical therapist, mom of two teenage boys and wife of a husband who only liked to eat meat. She has certificate in plant-based nutrition and both her and her husband have been fully plant-based for over two years - the boys have come around nicely. They all have boundless energy and haven't been sick in years. She loves to share what she's learned so other families can feel great, aid the environment, and protect animals too. You can follow her work here.

31 thoughts on “The Casein Cancer Link or Why you Should Ditch that Milk for Good”

  1. Thanks for posting this article! I was diagnosed with Granulosa Cell Tumor of the ovary at age 35, a rare form of ovarian cancer. No history of cancer in my family on either side, although GCT is not hereditary. I became vegetarian at age 8, but was really a “dairytarian.” As a kid and all the way through grad school, I wasn’t a huge fan of veggies, so all I really ate was pizza, mac and cheese, eggs with cheese, cereal with milk, etc. Lots and lots of dairy. I am convinced my cancer cells were “turned on” due my lifelong heavy consumption of dairy. My husband and I are now happily vegan.

    • Wow what an inspiring story, Diane! Thanks so much for sharing. We’re so happy to hear that you’ve gotten better and are enjoying this diet and lifestyle! It’s so important to spread this message and change lives :)

    • I too was a dairytarian and got diagnosed with stage3 0variAn cancer a year ago. It has now reoccurred in my liver and lung but now clear in my abdomen where it began. I got clean if it after chemotherapy for awhile. I too think it was all the dairy among other things that gave me cancer. I’ve been WFPB with my husband for almost 9months. I’m trying to save my life with this diet and I had a physical lately. Even though the cancer came back my health is excellent as far as no heart , kidney, diabetes, high blood pressure or anything wrong with me but the cancer. It remains to be seen if this diet saves me but I’m trying.i exercise and meditate. Me and hubby love being vegan as it’s delicious,filling and feels clean to eat this way. Will it kill my cancer? Is it too late for me? Time will tell but for now I’m functional but have to go back into treatment which I did not want to do . Wish me well.

      • Thanks so much for sharing, Judith! Fingers crossed you’ll get better and better. This diet is surely one important part of healing – hopefully your other treatments will be as successful.
        You’ll be in our thoughts!
        Big hugs,
        Alena

  2. Judith,
    I wish you good health and am happy that you are eating the best way to fight the cancer. Keep exercising and meditating as that is so important too. Thanks for sharing. We will be sending good healing thoughts.
    ~ Christine

  3. Great article and I am also glad that I stopped cow’s milk over 4 years ago. As you know, I have cancer, and I have been told by a cardiologist that runs our cancer support group that cancer patients should especially avoid cow products!
    Thanks for writing this :)

  4. Breast cancer at 50. My brother had prostate cancer at 47. He had multiple servings of dairy every day. My one “vice” was ice cream. I just finished chemo and will have a double mastectomy soon. I asked my oncologist what was the best way to avoid getting cancer again. All she could say was, BMI (body mass index) is a direct link to cancer, so exercise and eat right. When I asked her to watch “Forks Over Knives” and “What The Health” she said she’d seen and read all that stuff. I just shut up after that, but wanted to say, why aren’t you telling patients to not eat meat and dairy?! I guess because she’s paid to prescribe chemo. I doubt there will ever be a nationally recognized cure for cancer, or even a push to prevent cancer. The meat and dairy industry is too big. Pharmaceutical companies pay big money to make sure their drugs are the only approved method of treatments. It’s up to us to get the truth out!

    • Hi Kim,
      thanks so much for sharing! I hope you’ll be feeling better soon and will be kicking cancer’s butt for good… yes, there is important information out there on how typical foods make us sick and die too young. More and more physicians get themselves educated, though, so there is a chance of the word getting out. Everyone has to do their own research, I think, to make an informed decision. Glad you have found the plant-based diet :)
      Best wishes from us,
      Alena

  5. Hi thanks for such an informative article. My thyroid was removed about 3 years ago. I was hyperthyroid I always wonder if it was due to my diet. I am researching and will be doing small changes to our diet at home , more plant based . I have two kids and hubby. He wants to loose weight and I believe diet will help tremendously especially because he definitely grew up a meat meat eater.

  6. I am 8n 100% agreement with all you say! I was raised vegan and as I got older (my teens) my mom let some dairy back in and it made me sick. When in college I took a nutrition class and stopped dairy. I felt better and lost weight. But my issue is how doctors tell us we have to give our children milk and animal proteins! ! How can they be so I’ll educated??

    • Hi Lora,
      glad you enjoyed the article and that you stopped the dairy when it made you feel sick. Crazy how doctors still recommend it – the problem is that they aren’t really educated on nutrition and just repeat what they once read somewhere. No need to let them talk you into this, plenty of plant-based docs out here, too: https://www.plantbaseddoctors.org/
      The truth on this will get out more and more – let’s give it some time.
      All my best,
      Alena

  7. Thank you for summarising this, I’d never heard of this link before. I recently trialled giving up dairy to see if it made a difference to the condition of my skin (https://thenorthleft.co.uk/dairy-free-diary-part-1-does-cutting-down-on-dairy-help-clear-acne), for similar reasons.

    I’ve recently discovered Dr Campbell’s work, too. Reading this makes me want to redouble my efforts and give it up for good! I’m hearing more and more about how the components of dairy-based foods are negatively impacting our health.

    Loved this quote: “No wonder 75% of the world’s population cannot handle dairy. But are they really lactose intolerant or just not a cow?” Makes perfect sense when you put it like that!

    • So happy you found this valuable!
      Yes, dairy is linked to many illnesses in the body – the skin being one of them. Happy to know that you’re wanting to give it up for good now :)
      Feel free to reach out via email for more support.
      Your blog looks so lovely btw!
      All my best,
      Alena

  8. Based on rat studies that he conducted that were seriously flawed. Whey, the other major protein found in milk, appears to have qualities that protect against cancer. But instead of including whey (or any other animal-based protein) in his experiments, it was more convenient for Campbell to stop with casein. What powdered, isolated casein does to rats tells us little about what traditionally consumed forms of milk will do to humans and tells us nothing that we can generalize to all “animal nutrients.” Furthermore, Campbell fails to address the problems of vitamin A depletion from excess isolated protein, unsupported by the nutrient-dense fats which accompany protein foods in nature. What Campbell failed to state in his book — although the evidence was present in his own research — is that these rats experienced tissue damage and liver cell death. They may not have developed liver cancer, but they still suffered major health problems.

    https://www.westonaprice.org/the-curious-case-of-campbells-rats-does-protein-deficiency-prevent-cancer/

    • Campbell has defended his position numerous times, you can find it on the internet. We stand behind his findings, as so many other plant-based experts. Weston A. Price was a dentist whose foundation now receives a lot of money from farmers who want their animal-based food products to be promoted there. Tons of problems with it as this article shows: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/sbm-weston-prices-appalling-legacy/
      Please understand that we cannot put our time and energy into thoroughly “debunking” things like this :) You’re free to follow the recommendations and people you think are most legit.

      • Thank you! I’m tired of people claiming The China Study was debunked, especially anyone using the Weston Price Foundation as a reference!

  9. Thanks for sharing! I was so interested to read the comments about women who had ovarian or breast cancer, and linking it to dairy consumption. Although I’ve never been a consumer of cows milk, i use to enjoy eggs. However, soon after I hit puberty I started having a reaction to eggs, including eczema flare ups and horrible stomach cramps (i felt like i was menstruating). I have now become vegan, and my issue has been resolved. Cancer runs in my family, so I hope my diet and lifestyle will prevent me from getting it or make me strong enough to fight it should it come about. For my toddler, I use ripple milk, which is made from golden peas, and he loves it. It is ridiculous that most doctors push dairy milk for developing children. Also, I work with functional medicine doctors, and they are amazing. When patients come in with chronic illnesses or cancer, the first thing that is addressed is their diet. Patients are encouraged to go on an elimination diet. All patients are thoroughly counseled on proper nutrition. I love this approach because by doing this patients change their lifestyle, and a lot of patients have been able to get off of medications. I could go on about how excited I am about this, but I’ll stop.

    • Wow, thank you so much for sharing! Wonderful insight, I’m so happy that you’ve made great choices for you and hope that you’ll be able to fight off all the bad boys in the future :)
      Honestly, I hope so many other people will read your comment as well and let it inspire you.
      Warm wishes!

  10. What a load of rubbish!
    If you bother to understand the tests you would not even write this article.
    The cancer was cause by aflatoxin, NOT by casein or protein.
    These days anyone can write any sensationalist piece and there will be plenty gullible people to believe it.

    • The author of this article is trained in the nutrition field and has a good enough understanding of this issue to share the information here on the blog. I understand that we all need to have good sources on hand to be credible and agree with you here!

    • Yes, aflatoxin is commonly used in animal experiments to cause cancer in the experimental group. So that was exactly the purpose; cause cancer and then test if a protein (in this case casein) had an effect on cancer cells’ growth. The reason the experiment is set up this way is because Campbell wanted to replicate the Indian work (when you do this you must use the same methodology). This experiment significantly showed that the casein had an effect on cancer cell growth. This is all you can conclude from the study but it is very powerful because the percentages of casein used are very realistic.

  11. Thank you for this useful summary. And all the good comments.
    I’ve also had my battle with cancer this year and at a very young age. I am doing well now and hoping to find the right lifestyle changes to stay healthy in the future.
    What I find the hardest is the confusing and contradictory info out there which is even harder to navigate when going through difficult times and consumed by issues over treatment choices etc.
    Doctors and nutritionists where I live have advised me to avoid cow products but said that it is ok to eat sheep and goat cheese and yogurt. Would you agree with that?
    Also as I am weak and anaemic after months of treatment they are pushing me to keep protein intake high and eat at least chicken and eggs weekly – why are eggs as bad as eating meat?
    Grateful for you insights!

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  13. Great information! I would like to be vegan but struggle as I have Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome. The only plant milk I can do is coconut and not sure about the saturated fat in it. I also am not able to eat whole wheat, nuts or seeds, beans or legumes, any soy, or dark leafy greens…such a struggle!

  14. Check out the documentary “The Science of Fasting,” especially if you’re going to be doing chemo. I water fast 2 weeks out of the year to help rid my body of any mutated cells. I also try to keep my animal protein intake at that 5% level. I’m 40 and I’ve never felt better! Fight the good fight my friends ✌️

  15. If you actually read the study and not just commentary you will see that while the rats fed casin died with cancer, they actually outlived the rats fed low protein. Ridiculous to eliminate casein based on this.

  16. Thank you for this article!
    My experience with dairy: I grew up (and lived as an adult) with chronic cystic acne and drank tons of milk. The causes given were chocolate, fried foods, or cola. Since I didn’t consume any of those, I was told that I didn’t keep my skin clean enough and to take antibiotics :( It wasn’t until I was well past 30 did I see a doctor for other issues and she suggested I stop dairy to see what happened. That was over 2 years ago and I have not had a s-i-n-g-l-e pimple since!!! YAY!!!
    I loved cream and cheese, but the pain and discomfort of those horrible pimples is greater than my desire for dairy.
    Thank you again for sharing important info!!

  17. There are indeed links of casein to prostate cancer: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4166373/ But that study at least did not find it linked to breast, lung, or stomach cancers.

    I’ve also been curious about the difference between applying casein to cancer cells in a petri dish versus consuming then digesting something that has casein in it, then having the nutrition from the casein travel through the body. It seems like it would be rather different?

    Studies are mixed about the impact of milk on different cancers – the whole product, not the isolated element casein. They have shown that it can *decrease* the occurrence of colorectal cancer, one of the most common in the world. They find no clear association for stomach cancer. For breast cancer, milk itself seems to have no impact, but products made from dairy can actually provide protection from breast cancer.

    There is also the question of the casein from cows’ milk versus the casein found in sheep or goat milk. Cows have far more A1-beta proteins in their casein, due to a mutation that occurred in most of the cattle found in European and US agriculture (there are breeds that have a high likelihood of A2 milk, but it would be a challenge to find a commercial source of A2 milk in the US). Sheep and goat milk will have a different protein profile, A2.

    Obviously some people are more sensitive to particular foods, and it is always wise to consume a variety of foods and avoid an excess of any one. It sounds like men should be cautious with milk consumption, given the potential for increased possibility of prostate cancer.

  18. From a young boy until now (32 years old), I always thought it was odd that we drank cows milk. The more I researched as I got older, the more I realized we were the only species that drinks the milk of other animals. Why not drink pig milk? Dog milk? Cat milk? Bear milk? Doesn’t it just set off a signal to your brain like….Why are we doing this? This doesn’t make sense. Nature already made the perfect milk for us. And nature already told us to stop drinking it after a certain time. People go absolutely berserk when you say milk and casein COULD be bad for you but I’ve never had anyone be able to explain to me why it makes sense to drink another animals milk, especially all the way through adulthood when Im not even calling my mother to pump a gallon of breast milk (made for human consumption) for me at 32 years old.

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