London (Agencies): A new study has asserted that children drinking milk on a regular basis are, up to 40 per cent, less likely to suffer from bowel cancer.

Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand have concluded that drinking nearly 250 ml of milk daily has a strong protective effect against the disease, which kills more than 490,000 people across the world.

The researchers have said that the key to milk's anti-cancer effects appears to lie in daily consumption of it over several years in childhood, reportedly.

Professor Brian Cox, who led the research said, "Our results suggest daily consumption of milk in childhood may reduce bowel cancer incidence, possibly by the action of calcium."

The researchers for their study took into consideration comparison between 562 bowel cancer sufferers aged 30 to 69 with a similar number of healthy volunteers. Each was asked about their health and lifestyle, including the frequency with which they drank free school milk.

They inferred that milk did help, provided that the children drank it daily for at least four years.

After that, it appeared to trim down the risk of disease by almost 20 per cent and after six years the chances of a tumour were slashed by 40 per cent.

It is believed that consuming milk for a long time builds up high levels of calcium in the body, which could guard the bowel against damage or kill cancer cells before the formation of tumour.

However, Professor Cox said that further research may establish that milk could cut the risk of cancer in future generations.

"Our research team is planning further work which could confirm that the provision of milk at school can significantly reduce the risk of cancer in future generations," he said.

But Cancer Research in UK has warned of certain studies which have indicated that a high-dairy diet could actually increase the chance of developing the disease.

A spokeswoman said, "The best ways to reduce bowel cancer risk are to keep a healthy weight, drink less alcohol and be physically active.”

The new study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.