Is milk cancer

Milk: does it make us sick?

The Heidelberg virologist Harald zur Hausen has been researching the risk of cancer from milk and meat consumption for years. His thesis: In meat and dairy products from European cattle there is a pathogen that leads to constant inflammatory reactions - and thus that Increased risk of cancer.

This thesis is based on a contradiction that he discovered in data from various countries: In countries such as India, South Korea or Japan, the colon and breast cancer rates have traditionally been very low. However, after more and more meat and dairy products were consumed from the middle of the 20th century, the rates rose sharply. At the same time, there are countries like Mongolia or Bolivia, where a lot of meat has always been consumed, but the cancer rate has remained at a low level.

Only European cattle affected?

At first glance, this contradiction gave the researcher at the German Cancer Research Center exactly the same question that he and his team are currently investigating: Does only the consumption of meat and milk cause des European beef health problems? Because if Mongolia and other countries with high meat consumption and low cancer rates mainly keep other types of cattle such as yak cattle, the countries with higher cancer rates import European cattle.

Neither bacterium nor virus: the plasmidoma

In the meantime, the researchers have found what they are looking for - in blood samples from European cattle, from patients and healthy people. In all of them they could have some kind novel "pathogen" find the one that is neither a bacterium nor a virus: the so-called plasmidome. However, it was not found inside tumors, but in the surrounding tissue.

The researchers' theory: After weaning, a child becomes infected with the pathogen by consuming milk or meat at the age of up to one year - if the immune system is not yet fully developed. The "pathogen" takes care of in the cells constant inflammatory reactionsthat accompany people for a lifetime - and that can lead to mutations in the genetic material of the cells. Over time, this increases the likelihood that such mutations will occur that turn healthy cells into tumor cells.

No warning about milk and dairy products

So far, many more studies are missing to finally prove the thesis. Either way, the virologist sees a positive health effect when mothers breastfeed for a year. And: So far, according to Zur Hausen, there is no convincing data that the risk of cancer increases further if you continue to eat meat, milk or yoghurt after being infected with the plasmidoma. Therefore, the Heidelberg researcher does not advise against milk and dairy products.