By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
We grew up on milk. My childhood days began with a big bowl of cornflakes and cold milk. If I close my eyes, I can still see all those episodes of "Lassie", and "Hazel" and even "the Brady Bunch" where the kids were never free to leave the dinner table without a caution to "drink your milk!".
And that wasn't all. We grew up licking ice cream cones, adding slices of cheddar cheese to our ham sandwiches, eating many delicious forkfuls of macaroni and cheese. It was all so good.
It was all so good, to taste, that is. But new research has found that it was all so bad for our health.
You've heard by now the litany of studies that have connected dairy allergies to a slew of health concerns including asthma. But we have something else to report. Milk, it turns out, has a special connection with cancer.
Casein, the Protein in Cow's Milk, Causes Cancer
In many laboratory studies to determine whether a particular drug is effective against cancer, scientists first have to cause cancer in lab animals. In many such studies, the cancer-causing agent of choice is casein, the protein found in cow's milk.
Let that sink in for a moment. To intentionally cause cancer, scientists give lab animals milk protein.
Here is an example of a study in this case actually examining the cancer-causing power of casein. The study was conducted in 2014 by Pusan National University's Yangsan Hospital in South Korea.
The researchers tested casein against various prostate cancer cell lines. Here is what they found. Casein accelerated the growth of cancer by 166% in one prostate cell line. Alpha-casein accelerated the growth of cancer by 228%.
Milk protein consists of casein (80%) and whey (20%). Casein has 4 subtypes, including alpha-casein number 1, alpha-casein number 2, beta casein, and K casein.
Only casein and alpha casein caused cancer in protein. Unfortunately, alpha protein in the main type of casein subtype found in milk.
If you are a man or known any men whom you care about, the best thing you can do for them is to warn them about the clear connection between drinking milk and eating dairy products and developing prostate cancer.
Casein Has an Unusual Connection with Breast Cancer
Casein actually also appears in human breast milk. Scientists have long known that women who breast feed for longer periods of time because they have had multiple pregnancies or just chose to breast feed longer, have lower rates of breast cancer.
Casein has been found in breast cancer tumors. the concentration of casein is higher in the tumors than in surrounding breast tissue, studies have found.
Casein in human breast milk may in fact provide some protection against tumor formation. Scientists have added breast milk casein to lab dishes of cancer cells and found that breast milk inhibits cancer initiation and cancer growth. This was the finding of a 2012 study from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, which identified alpha-casein as the protein in breast milk which inhibits cancer.
So, wait a minute, didn't other studies find that alpha-casein accelerates prostate cancer growth?
The difference, perhaps, is that the casein which causes cancer growth is cow's milk casein, not natural human breast milk casein.
We humans are the only animals who choose to drink the milk secretions of another species, as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center has pointed out in many lectures. Dr. Esselstyn is perhaps the world's leading authority on epidemiology nutrition.
It could be that we do not get cancer from human breast milk casein because it is our casein. Cow's milk casein is a foreign substance to us. Perhaps our bodies are reacting to it as it does other foreign substances that we choose to ingest --- it is regarding it as an infection. If so, this may be triggering internal inflammation and setting the stage for cancer development, growth and proliferation.
On balance, even if casein is naturally present in our own breast milk, we should ditch the casein from other animals.