Female Researchers Discover Breast Cancer Risk Linked to Cattle Virus

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer among women in the United States. Researchers from UC Berkeley and UC Davis have uncovered an association between the presence of Bovine Leukosis Virus (BLV) in cattle and breast cancer in humans. Gertrude Buehring, virology professor at University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health, led the team who performed the recent study that was published in the journal, PLOS  ONE.


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More on this important study

BLV is a cancerous disease that infects the blood cells and mammary tissue of cattle herds throughout the United States. For this study, the Cooperative Human Tissue Network  provided the researchers with breast tissue samples from 239 women  and found that 59% of the samples from women who had breast cancer indicated the presence of BLV. Only 29% of samples from women without breast cancer indicated the presence of the virus.


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A formal analysis of the data concluded that even taking into account other risk factors, such as alcohol  consumption, obesity and the use of hormone treatments after menopause, the odds of developing breast cancer were three times higher if BLV was present.


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Gerturde Buehring and her team of researchers

Gertrude Buehring, Ph.D is a professor of virology in the Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology Division of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. For the past two decades, she has researched BLV as a prime suspect in the cause of breast cancer. A distinguished lecturer, she has received several honorary accolades for her research, including a Fulbright Scholar Award.

Aided by DNA Sequencing and other innovative technologies that were introduced in the 1990s,  Buehring had published a study in 2003 that challenged the decades-old belief that the BLV virus that causes leukemia and lymphoma in cattle had no such affect on humans. Last year, she and her team published another study that positively confirmed the presence of BLV in the mammary epithelial cells of human breast tissue, where breast cancer originates.

Gladys Block, co-author of the study and a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of nutritional epidemiology, has brought to the team her extensive knowledge and research focus on nutrients and their risk to disease, vitamin C and cardiovascular disease risk factors, antioxidants, oxidation and the improvement of dietary methods in epidemiology.

Hanne Jensen, MD, UC Davis professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and a co-author of the paper, offers her specialty in Transfusion Medicine. She has been involved in different aspects of breast cancer research since 1969. In her own words: "We still need to do many more studies. Researchers are still working to determine how this virus is transmitted to people."

Further implications of this important study 

Although it cannot be said that this most recent and significant study concludes that BLV causes breast cancer, there is no question that the team uncovered a vital link between the two. This fact alone could mark a first step in creating a way to prevent breast cancer in the form of a vaccine against BLV.  According to Buehring, this may or may not be possible, but for these three valiant and dedicated women their work and focus on bettering the health and lives of women everywhere will never be in vain.

Closing thoughts:

Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today  I dare to win. ~ Bernadette Devlin