Gertrude Buehring, lead author of the study and virology expert at UC Berkeley, and her fellow researchers believe that the simple contact with the bovine virus may trigger breast cancer in humans. The study was published this week in PLOS ONE.
According to official data, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in U.S. women after skin cancer. It is also the third on the list of deadliest forms of cancers with more than 206,000 deaths in just five years.
Study authors based their study on breast tissue samples gathered by the Cooperative Human Tissue Network. The team analyzed such samples from nearly 250 volunteers.
Researchers noticed that 59 percent of breast cancer patients involved in the study had traces of the cattle-borne leukemia virus in their tissue, while only 29 percent of healthy patients displayed an immune response to a possible infection with the virus.
Researchers reported that patients who had the virus within their bodies were three times more likely to develop breast cancer later on than patients who weren’t exposed to the virus.
“We calculate that 37 percent of all breast cancers are attributable to this cause. That’s a fantastically large attributable risk,”
one of the researchers told reporters.
In the past three decades, there was no evidence that BLV, the leukemia-causing virus found in cattle, could be passed down to humans. But DNA tests in the 1990s started to challenge the belief that humans were immune to the virus. Twelve years ago, Dr. Buehring published a study showing that the virus could be transferred from cattle to humans.
In 2014, a team led by Buehring found first clear traces of the BLV in the cells of breast tissue of women. Those cells are also the first hosts to breast cancer when the disease emerges.
Nevertheless, study authors cautioned that they didn’t find a cause-and-effect relationship between the virus and human breast cancer, but they did find a strong correlation between them.
Hanne Jensen, one of the researchers involved in the study and UC Davis expert of pathology, said that more research needs to be conducted to confirm whether BLV can cause cancer in humans.
Additionally, researchers weren’t able to tell how exactly the virus entered human tissue, but they hope that additional research would provide the answer. Buehring, on the other hand, believes that there is no time to waste and a vaccine against the virus should be developed as a first preventive measure.
Image Source: Pixabay
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