Adolescent dairy product and calcium intake in relation to later prostate cancer risk and mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study



Although a growing body of evidence supports an early-life contribution to prostate cancer (PCa) development, few studies have investigated early-life diet, and only three have examined early-life dairy product intake, a promising candidate risk factor because of its known/suspected influence on insulin-like growth factor levels and height.


We used recalled dietary data from 162,816 participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study to investigate associations for milk, cheese, ice cream, total dairy, and calcium intake at ages 12–13 years with incident total (n = 17,729), advanced (n = 2,348), and fatal PCa (n = 827) over 14 years of follow-up. We calculated relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) by Cox proportional hazards regression.


We observed suggestive positive trends for milk, dairy, and calcium intake with total and/or advanced PCa (p-trends = 0.016–0.148). These trends attenuated after adjustment for additional components of adolescent diet, particularly red meat and vegetables/potatoes. In contrast, suggestive inverse trends were observed for cheese and ice cream intake with total and/or advanced PCa (p-trends = 0.043–0.153), and for milk, dairy, and calcium intake with fatal PCa (p-trend = 0.045–0.117).


Although these findings provide some support for a role of adolescent diet in increasing PCa risk, particularly for correlates of milk intake or overall dietary patterns, our protective findings for cheese and ice cream intake with PCa risk and mortality, and for all dairy products with PCa mortality, suggest alternative explanations, such as the influence of early-life socioeconomic status, and increased PCa screening, earlier detection, and better PCa care.

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We thank Dr. Linda Liao for assistance with acquiring AARP Study data, and Dr. Stephanie Smith-Warner, Sherry Yaun, and Tao Hou for assistance defining prostate cancer outcomes.


This analysis was funded by the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences.

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Correspondence to Siobhan Sutcliffe.

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See Appendix Fig. 1 and Table 5 .

Fig. 1

Adolescent food frequency questionnaire in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study

Table 5 Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for dairy and calcium intake from 12 to 13 years of age in relation to more advanced prostate cancer (T4, N1, M1 or death from PCa) in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, 1996–2011

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Lan, T., Park, Y., Colditz, G.A. et al. Adolescent dairy product and calcium intake in relation to later prostate cancer risk and mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Cancer Causes Control (2020).

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  • Prostate cancer
  • Diet
  • Dairy product
  • Calcium
  • Early life
  • Adolescent