Growth Hormones in Milk Linked to Cancer

hormones and milk

Cow milk farmers that don’t use growth hormones can now advertise their difference.

Research has linked growth hormone use for producing milk with cancer.So it is important that we know which milk brands don’t come from cows that are receiving growth hormone injections or growth hormones in their feed.

Growth hormones and cancer studied

After a significant review of the available research on growth hormones and cancer, the American Public Health Association – an association of physicians and public health officials – included the following statement in a 2009 Policy Release regarding the use of growth hormones in dairy cows, after a review of the evidence:

“elevated IGF-1 levels in human blood are associated with higher rates of colon, breast, and prostate cancers.”

There is also concern that hormone-treated milk is responsible for girls reaching puberty earlier. Indeed, researchers from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine studied 1,239 girls from 6-8 years old. They found that girls in this age group are reaching puberty at double the rate they did just ten years ago.

The question is whether this is all related to dairy from supplemented-hormone cows. A 2007 study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France studied the possible dietary sources for increased IGF-1 levels in the blood. They studied 2,109 women who were questioned on diet and tested for circulating IGF-1 levels. This research indeed confirmed that circulating IGF-1 levels were “modestly related” with the consumption of dairy products. However, they were also related to the intake of protein, minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and vitamins B6 and B2.

This study also found that IGF-1 levels were reduced with greater consumption of vegetables. The study did not test the effects of plasticizers such as BPA on IGF-1 levels.

Label statements allowed

For these reasons, it is important that consumers know which milks don’t come from cows injected or fed growth hormones.

In 2011, a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the State of Ohio restricted free speech when it ruled that organic milk farmers and bottlers. They were mandated by the state they could not list on their labels that their dairy products were made without synthetic hormones, pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics.

The state of Ohio responded by agreeing to allow such statements on dairy labels. This ended the legal battle between the State of Ohio and the Organic Trade Association, the International Dairy Food Association (IDFA), and organic milk producers.

The finding by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Ohio State’s rule was unconstitutional because it restricted speech. The label claims that had been banned included “rbGH Free,” “Hormone Free,” “rbST Free,” and “No Artificial Hormones.”

“Ohio’s abandonment of this misguided rule is a victory for consumers, farmers and manufacturers alike. Consumers have the right to make informed choices about the foods they eat, and farmers and manufacturers can continue to communicate truthfully with consumers,” said the executive director of the Organic Trade Association, Christine Bushway, in an interview with NewHope360.

Lawsuit filed in 2008

The lawsuit was filed in 2008 after Ted Strickland, Governor of Ohio, announced Executive Order 2008-03s, “Immediate Adoption of Rule to Define What Constitutes False and Misleading Labels on Milk and Milk Products.” This rule stated that “there is no significant difference between milk produced for cows supplemented with rbST and milk produced from cows not supplemented with rbST.”

It also stated that “Ohio’s citizens are best served when they have complete and accurate information with which to make choices about the products they buy.” This statement in the order apparently helped the case for consumers knowing whether the cows were supplemented with hormones.

The critical issue many have with milk produced from cows supplemented with synthetic hormones is the possibility of elevated circulating levels of IGF-1 resulting from consuming those dairy products.

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Biro FM, Galvez MP, Greenspan LC, Succop PA, Vangeepuram N, Pinney SM, Teitelbaum S, Windham GC, Kushi LH, Wolff MS. Pubertal assessment method and baseline characteristics in a mixed longitudinal study of girls. Pediatrics. 2010 Sep;126(3):e583-90.

Norat T, Dossus L, Rinaldi S, Overvad K, Grønbaek H, Tjønneland A, Olsen A, Clavel-Chapelon F, Boutron-Ruault MC, Boeing H, Lahmann PH, Linseisen J, Nagel G, Trichopoulou A, Trichopoulos D, Kalapothaki V, Sieri S, Palli D, Panico S, Tumino R, Sacerdote C, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Peeters PH, van Gils CH, Agudo A, Amiano P, Ardanoz E, Martinez C, Quirós R, Tormo MJ, Bingham S, Key TJ, Allen NE, Ferrari P, Slimani N, Riboli E, Kaaks R. Diet, serum insulin-like growth factor-I and IGF-binding protein-3 in European women. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;61(1):91-8.

American Public Health Association. Opposition to Hormone Growth Promoters in Beef and Dairy Cattle Production. Policy Date: 11/10/2009. Policy Number: 20098.

Ted Strickland, Governor, State of Ohio. Executive Order 2008-03S.

Baginski C. Organic dairy industry wins battle against Ohio labeling rule. Newhope360. 2011 Nov 1.


Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”