The area of research and potential for preventive measures has been widened with the discovery that a leukemia virus in cattle is linked to breast cancer in humans and may indeed be one of the contributing causes to a tragic condition that affects millions of people each year.
- 239 samples of breast cancer tissue was examined
- 59% presented high exposure to BLV
- The virus could potentially increase chances of breast cancer three times
- 84% of major dairy operations tested positive for BLV antibodies
Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) causes an infection in cattle that affects the blood cells and mammary tissue of cows often providing beef and dairy for consumption. Upon testing around 82% of the dairy herd around the United States, by testing 17 major companies that sell products from their cattle, it was observed that 84% of them were positive for BLV.
However, the virus has not been proven to be transmissible to humans, and for the past 30 years, the medical community has operated on that research. With no known harm to humans, it had fallen from their attention and did not require any strict regulations to see to its elimination.
Researchers at the universities of Berkley and Davis in California, have conducted a research on 239 women by examining tissue of breast cancer, supplied by the Cooperative Human Tissue Network. They purposefully looked for BLV with study methods that have not been previously available, and were able to gain better insight into the possible link.
Worryingly, they found that among the samples, 59% of them who suffered from breast cancer or had defeated the disease in the past had signs of definite exposure to BLV, while only 29% of the women without a history of the condition saw the same amount.
While the researchers claim that they have not definitely proven a cause-and-effect relationship between the virus and breast cancer, they go on to state that it could possibly be attributed to 37% types of breast cancers out there.
In fact, according to professor Gertrude Buerhing, from UC Berkley’s School of Public Health, the “ratio is higher than any of the frequently publicized risk factors […], such as obesity, alcohol consumption or use post-menopausal hormones”.
It means that BLV could potentially be a more dominating cause of breast cancer than many of the other risk factors already known and often warned against for women worldwide. In fact, the virus’ presence seemed to increase the chance of a person developing breast cancer by 3.1 times.
The possibility alone is cause for concern, and that has led researchers to state that they would investigate the issue even further, until they find definitive proof that BLV is a possible cause of breast cancer. According to Buerhing, this could revolutionize the way scientists approach the disease by expanding more on preventive measures rather than searching for a cure.
That possibility alone is rooted in the fact that vaccines are already developed to fight BLV, which might see scrutinizing attention if they can provide concrete proof that the virus can indeed be transmissible to humans, and that the infection occurred before the cancer.
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