Media’s crazy cocktails on cancer: today’s case of whole milk and soda

Milk and PepsiYesterday was my 3-year anniversary of surgery for prostate cancer. I’m doing great in long-term remission and hopeful it stays that way. You never know. Knock on wood.

Over the years, as both a cancer researcher and patient, I’ve found myself frustrated with the way the media fails at reporting on supposed risky behaviors for certain cancers including prostate cancer.

Just today we have two stories claiming in alarming headlines (here and here) that men should not drink soda or whole milk.

However, if you get into the nitty gritty the articles report minor possible increases in some risks but not others.

It’s a mess.

Remember Laverne from Laverne and Shirley who drank milk and Pepsi? I better not follow her lead in that regard, huh?Laverne

I’ve also seen media reports that men, to lessen risk of prostate cancer, should NOT:

  • drink milk
  • drink whole milk
  • ice cream (are you kidding me?)
  • drink soda
  • eat eggs (not even egg whites)
  • cheese
  • eat meat
  • eat BBQ’d meat
  • take any supplements (and vice versa that they should take supplements)
  • take calcium supplements
  • eat salt
  • eat cereal
  • eat white rice

You can find the same kinds of stories in the media about breast cancer patients and many other kinds of cancer.

Crud, what can I eat and drink?

What the heck is all this advice based on? Usually it is something like a paper that says men who eat more eggs than men who eat less eggs have a 17.5% increased risk of prostate cancer.

I’m not convinced by these hyping headlines.

But I am convinced that maintaining a healthy weight, eating a lot more plant-based foods, exercising, and living life in moderation make great sense as a general approach to good health. This is also probably wise for lowering risk of cancer or recurrence of cancer, but I don’t believe that hyping scary headlines helps anyone.

2 thoughts on “Media’s crazy cocktails on cancer: today’s case of whole milk and soda”

  1. Here’s some brand new analysis of these type of papers from John Ioanniddis.

    Schoenfeld, J. D. (2012). Is everything we eat associated with cancer ? A systematic cookbook review, (C), 1–8. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.047142.

    Your instinct that these sweeping claims are only backed by the flimsiest of evidence and don’t stack up to further investigation is backed up by the numbers.

    If only all of these media stories could be magically replaced by Ioannidis’ conclusion:

    “Associations with cancer risk or benefits have been claimed for most food ingredients. Many single studies highlight implausibly large effects, even though evidence is weak. Effect sizes shrink in meta-analyses.”

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