SEP 16, 2015 4:20 PM PDT

Human Breast Cancer Linked to Leukemia Virus in Cattle

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich
There are several risk factors that have been identified for breast cancer including age, reproductive history, hormones, genetics, alcohol consumption and lifestyle choices. One of the main questions that researchers seek to answer is: What is the specific agent that changes a cell’s status from normal to cancerous? Because only 10% of breast cancer cases are identified as hereditary and <1% are attributed to exposure to ionizing radiation, it is not understood specifically what causes the remaining 90% of cases. Although the mentioned factors and lifestyle choices are known to increase the risk of breast cancer, it is not understood how these factors induce cellular and molecular changes in the breast tissue. 

Viruses have previously been identified as causative agents of human cancer. These viruses are also known as oncogenic viruses, which have been associated with at least 6 different types of human cancer. Some of these viruses include hepatitis B and C which are associated with liver cancer and human papilloma virus which is associated with cervical cancer.
Bovine Leukemia Virus (BLV) may be an oncogenic virus that induces cancer in mammary cells in women.
Other research involving animal models, has shown that viruses of the mammary tissues in animals can be passed down to offspring through milk. Because humans in most Western cultures consume more cow’s milk than human milk in a lifetime, researchers hypothesized that there might be a link between oncogenic viruses that affect cattle and breast cancer in women.
In this image, cancerous mammary cells have begun a process known as apoptosis, or programmed cell death.
Researchers at UC Berkley have established a link between exposure bovine leukemia virus (BLV) and the occurrence of breast cancer in women. BLV infects dairy and beef cattle’s blood cells and mammary tissue. The virus is passed on to other animals though infected blood and milk. The research, published earlier this month in PLOS One, involved a case-control study of 239 breast tissue samples donated from 2002-2008 from the Cooperative Human Tissue Network. The authors of the study detected, through the use of molecular techniques, the presence of a biomarker for BLV DNA present in the majority (59%) of the breast tissues from women diagnosed with breast cancer compared to only 29% in tissues from healthy women. Earlier studies from the 1970s were unable to demonstrate transmission of BLV from animals to humans. This is the second study in the last two years that has overturned that hypothesis.

Sources: PLOS One; UC Berkley
About the Author
PhD
I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
You May Also Like
JUL 25, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Genetic Recombination Appears to be Common in the Human Genome
JUL 25, 2022
Genetic Recombination Appears to be Common in the Human Genome
When the genomes of parents come together to create the genome of a child, their DNA recombines; similar parts are rearr ...
AUG 02, 2022
Immunology
New Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccine Works in Mice
AUG 02, 2022
New Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccine Works in Mice
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of infant hospitalization and a leading cause of death around the wor ...
AUG 08, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
This Weed is a Super Plant, Providing Insight Into Drought Tolerance
AUG 08, 2022
This Weed is a Super Plant, Providing Insight Into Drought Tolerance
You may have seen a 'super plant' growing in between the cracks of sidewalks. Portulaca oleracea is commonly known as pu ...
AUG 11, 2022
Neuroscience
A Pathway That Links a Gut Microbe & Alzheimer's Disease
AUG 11, 2022
A Pathway That Links a Gut Microbe & Alzheimer's Disease
The gut microbiome is closely connected to human health and well being in many ways. While many microbes in the gut perf ...
SEP 08, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Evidence of Trauma in DNA Could Predict Who is Most at Risk
SEP 08, 2022
Evidence of Trauma in DNA Could Predict Who is Most at Risk
A recent study has outlined the findings from a 17-year study of almost 500 people who experienced trauma in childhood. ...
SEP 21, 2022
Plants & Animals
Mutation Correction Machinery from Moss Transplanted to Human Cells
SEP 21, 2022
Mutation Correction Machinery from Moss Transplanted to Human Cells
Protein creation is essential to the normal function of healthy cells. Proteins help communicate key information to vari ...
Loading Comments...