The cherry on top of lactose intolerance? Lower risk of breast, ovarian, and lung cancer.

A new study published in the British Journal of Cancer suggests cited consumption of milk and other dairy products as being associated with a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancers in North America and Western Europe. Not really sure why that is, researchers from Lund University and Region Skane in Sweden decided to investigate how “low consumption of milk and other dairy products protects lactose-intolerant people against breast and ovarian cancers.” Since milk consumption and lung cancer risk have been associated with a protein called IGF-1 (an insulin-like growth factor) in epidemiological and animal studies, researchers examined for this disease, too.

Nationwide data was provided by two Swedish registers, and of this data, 22, 788 individuals were lactose intolerant. When compared to individuals without lactose intolerance, those with intolerance had a significantly lower risk for all three cancers. This may not be entirely because milk was missing from their diet; it could be this combined with an individual’s lower calorie intake as a result of lesser consumption. There’s also a protective factor in plant-based milk drinks. Think almond and organic soy milk.

However, researchers advised “we must interpret these results with caution” because the association they found is not enough to prove a causative effect. While it seems protection against cancer is associated with diet, it would be wrong, let alone accurate to say milk specifically causes these types of cancers.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), no single food or food component has been proven to protect people against cancer. But that hasn’t stopped science from making a very compelling argument. Certain minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals have demonstrated an "anti-cancer" effect, said the AICR, and further "evidence suggests it is the synergy of compounds working together in the overall diet that offers the strongest cancer protection."

The jury may be out on plant-based milk…for now, but the AICR’s current list of foods that “fight” cancer includes berries, dark and green leafy vegetables, grapes, legumes, coffee, and tea. For ovarian cancer risk, one study suggested a diet rich in citrus fruits and (more) tea.

Source: Ji J,  Sundquist J,  Sundquist K. Lactose intolerance and risk of lung, breast and ovarian cancers: aetiological clues from a population-based study in Sweden. British Journal of Cancer. 2014.