Variable Effects of Dairy, Calcium, Vitamin D on Ovarian Cancer Risk in African–American Women Interview with:

Bo (Bonnie) Qin, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Scholar Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey New Brunswick, NJ 08903

Dr. Bo Qin

Bo (Bonnie) Qin, Ph.D.
Post-Doctoral Associate
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ 08903 What is the background for this study?
Response: Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancer in the US. African-American patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer tend to have a worse 5-year survival rate compared to their European-American patients. Therefore, identifying preventive factors in African-Americans women is particularly important.

African Americans tend to consume less calcium and vitamin D from dietary sources, due to a higher prevalence of lactose intolerance, and supplemental intake. Meanwhile, darker color of the skin reduces the synthesis of vitamin D upon sun exposure. They together place African-American women at risk for calcium and vitamin D deficiency. It remains unknown whether calcium, vitamin D, lactose and dairy products are associated with ovarian cancer risk in African-American women and our study aimed to answer this question. What are the main findings?

Response: We found that whole milk consumption and lactose intake may increase the risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women. Calcium intake, from either dietary or supplemental sources, may reduce the risk. We also found that longer sun exposure in summer months may decrease the ovarian cancer risk in African-American women. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our findings suggest that a high-calcium, low-lactose diet, and sun exposure in summer months may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women. However, because the benefits of sun exposure may be offset by increased risk of skin cancer, a combination of moderate sun exposure and sufficient vitamin D intakes from diet and supplements may be a safer solution for an adequate vitamin D status. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: As this is the first study to examine the associations between dairy products, lactose, calcium, and vitamin D with the risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women, more studies need to be conducted to confirm our findings. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The current recommendation for calcium intake is 1,000 mg/day for women 19 to 50y, and 1,200 mg/day for women beyond 70y. For vitamin D intake, the recommendation is 600 IU/day for women at or below 70y and 800 IU for women beyond 70y. We found less than 20% of African-American women achieved the recommended daily vitamin D intake in our study. In addition to the potential benefits of calcium and vitamin D on cancer prevention, their benefits in skeletal health are well known. The lower intakes in African-American women warrant our attention. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Bo Qin, Patricia G Moorman, Anthony J Alberg, Jill S Barnholtz-Sloan, Melissa Bondy, Michele L Cote, Ellen Funkhouser, Edward S Peters, Ann G Schwartz, Paul Terry, Joellen M Schildkraut, Elisa V Bandera. Dairy, calcium, vitamin D and ovarian cancer risk in African–American women. British Journal of Cancer, 2016; DOI:10.1038/bjc.2016.289

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on September 19, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD