Red meat, Toxoplasmosis and catsAugust 22, 2019
In 1969, researchers discovered that cows often carry a virus called bovine leukemia virus, or BLV for short. This virus causes hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the dairy and meat industry.
At the time, concerned scientists didn’t find any evidence of BLV in human beings. That was 34 years ago. More recently, researchers applied far more sensitive tests to human blood and found evidence of BLV in 59% of the patients who had malignant cancer and 38% of those with pre-malignant breast cancer. The evidence that the scientists found was antibodies to the virus in the patients’ blood.
Of course, finding evidence of the virus didn’t necessarily mean that the virus itself is linked to human breast cancer. However, we know today that viruses do cause cancer in human. In fact, about 20% of all cancers are linked to infections, especially viruses.
So, scientists asked the question: “Is there a link between humans who have the BLV in their blood, and human breast cancer?” Since 90% of all dairy herds in the U.S. and Canada are infected with BLV, this is an extremely important question.
Then, in 2019, researchers in Brazil found that the “[p]resence of BLV-DNA in breast tissues was strongly associated with diagnosed and histologically confirmed breast cancer…” They estimated that as many as 37% of human breast cancer cases may be attributable to exposure to bovine leukemia virus.
This is actually both bad news and good news. The bad news is obvious: a virus in beef and milk has been strongly linked with breast cancer. The good news is that if we eliminate BLV from our food system, it is possible that the rate of breast cancer would go down significantly.
Other countries have figured out how to prevent BLV from spreading through their herds of cows. It requires producers to implement sanitary veterinary procedures in caring for their animals.
Unfortunately, at the moment, the American dairy and meat industries seem to be addressing the risk of BLV as more of a public relations problem than a medical one. This puts the vast majority of Americans at risk of viral infection.
Of course, the safest approach for avoiding BLV infection from beef or milk products is to simply stop eating them.
That simple approach will also reduce your risk of the many diseases and conditions associated with eating red meat.