A new study has suggested that the presence of bovine leukemia in women may raise their risk of developing breast cancer. It may even be the most common risk factor for breast cancer patients.
Researchers with the University of California-Berkeley reached this conclusion after gathering tissue samples from almost 240 women, some who had breast cancer, and some who didn’t.
They investigated how many of their subjects were infected with bovine leukemia and saw that 59 percent (59%) of the women who had breast cancer tested positive for the presence of the virus, while only 29 percent (29%) of the women who didn’t have breast cancer tested positive for the presence of the virus.
The study is in actuality a continuation of research started by Gertrude Buehring, professor of virology from UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, and her team just last year.
Until 2014, the scientific community had no idea whether or not bovine leukemia can be transmitted to humans. And after finding proof that it can, the researchers then took the project even further by starting to look for a potential link between breast cancer and bovine leukemia.
The oldest study to look at the presence that bovine leukemia has in cattle and dairy products was conducted in 1996, when the results showed that 89 percent (89%) of United States dairy operations tested positive for the virus.
The newest study to look at the presence that bovine leukemia has in cattle and dairy products was conducted less than 10 year ago, in 2007. The research team investigated more than 82 percent (82%) of United States dairy herds from the 17 most active states in the dairy-producing department. The results showed that 84 percent (84%) of United States dairy operations tested positive for the virus.
Professor Buehring offered a statement explaining that “The tests we have now are more sensitive, but it was still hard to overturn the established dogma that BLV (bovine leukemia virus) was not transmissible to humans”.
She also added that “As a result, there has been little incentive for the cattle industry to set up procedures to contain the spread of the virus”.
She then informed that the simple comparison between the rate of women who have breast cancer and have also tested positive for bovine leukemia, and the rate of women who have breast cancer and present one of the better know risk factors (alcohol consumption, obesity, and postmenopausal hormone use), has indicated that bovine leukemia is the leading risk factor as it is the most often encountered in breast cancer patients.
The research team could not find any definitive proof of how bovine leukemia infects breast tissue, however this does not mean that they don’t have any theories.
People most likely get the virus from consuming unpasteurized milk, poorly cooked or uncooked or meat, and even from human to human transmission.
The next step for Professor Buehring and her team is to research whether bovine leukemia is present in breast tissue only after the cancers have formed, or if they can also be found before this.
The lead author also insisted that so far there’s no undeniable proof that bovine leukemia triggers breast cancer development.
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