It has been proposed, on the basis of animal models and ecological studies, that consumption or metabolism of dairy sugar may increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Case-control and cohort studies of the association between lactose and dairy food consumption and ovarian cancer risk, however, have yielded varied findings. We summarized the available literature on this topic using a meta-analytic approach. Random-effects models were used to estimate the summary relative risks (RRsummary). A linear regression analysis of the natural logarithm of the RR was carried out to assess a possible dose-response relationship between lactose intake and ovarian cancer risk. Eighteen case-control and 3 prospective cohort studies were eligible for inclusion in the meta-analysis. The findings of case-control studies were heterogeneous, and, except for whole milk (RRsummary for highest vs. lowest category = 1.27, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.97–1.68), do not provide evidence of positive associations between dairy food and lactose intakes with risk of ovarian cancer. In contrast, the 3 cohort studies are consistent and show significant positive associations between intakes of total dairy foods, low-fat milk, and lactose and risk of ovarian cancer. The RRsummary for a daily increase of 10 g in lactose intake (the approximate amount in 1 glass of milk) was 1.13 (95% CI = 1.05–1.22) for cohort studies. In conclusion, prospective cohort studies, but not case-control studies, support the hypothesis that high intakes of dairy foods and lactose may increase the risk of ovarian cancer. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.