Plymouth billboard claiming dairy increases prostate cancer risk receives mixed reactions from doctors, locals

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PLYMOUTH, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A nutrition advocacy group is asking Wisconsinites to drop dairy from their diet.

A billboard that reads "Dairy Increases Prostate Cancer Risk" will go up on Sept. 5, just outside of Plymouth, a community dominated by the dairy industry, and the self-proclaimed "cheese capital of the world."

With September being Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is recommending that Wisconsin "ditches dairy," but some physicians are disputing the cancer-causing claim.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's website lists their mission as "saving and improving human and animal lives through plant-based diets and ethical and effective scientific research."

Anna Herby, a registered dietitian with PCRM, told CBS 58 the claim is based on the hormone IGF-1, which has been shown to grow cancer cells in lab studies.

"If you drink a lot of milk or if you're consuming higher levels of dairy, then this IGF hormone is found in higher concentrations in your bloodstream," Herby said.

However, Dr. Joshua Lang with the Carbone Cancer Center at the University of Wisconsin clarifies IGF-1 in your bloodstream does not mean it can increase cancer risks.

While several studies do show a correlation between dairy intake and prostate cancer, Dr. Lang warns the research is not conclusive.

"Some of the research that's been done really did a poor job of taking into account some of the factors that we absolutely know are associated with the risk of prostate cancer. That includes age, race, and a family history of prostate cancer or breast cancer," Dr. Lang said.

Dairy's potential role may not be clear, but prostate cancer is common, and adult men should talk to their doctor about any concerns.

"Exercise, a healthy diet, things that really make you more fit. Whether they directly impact prostate cancer risk or not, we don't know but what we do know it helps people, in general, do better," Dr. Lang said.

Dr. Lang said Wisconsin does have a rate of prostate cancer diagnosis above the national average. The high rate correlates with a decrease of prostate screenings in the state.

Regardless of the validity of the claim, the billboard will be sure to get people talking.

"I don't think many farmers will take to it, because a lot of us are doing what we've done for so many years and generations," said Josh Goeser of Goeser's Dairy Farm in Plymouth.

"You're coming here and attacking a way of life for another 150 years, and not everybody's going to agree with it," said resident, Jeffrey Billman.

For more information about prostate cancer, CLICK HERE.

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