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Chicken Dioxins, Viruses, or Antibiotics?

The association between poultry and cancer may be explained by the presence in chickens’ and turkeys’ flesh of industrial carcinogens such as dioxins, oncogenic (cancer-causing) viruses, and/or the drugs that were fed to the birds.

April 9, 2012 |
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Sources Cited


Image thanks to Benimoto.


Why was there so much more lymphoma and leukemia risk among those eating just a small serving of chicken a day? The reasons are unclear. Certainly there are industrial carcinogens like dioxins that may increase risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and have been found in meat and dairy, but the study did not observe an increased risk in association with high milk consumption, and so that’s probably not it.
Secondly, poultry may contain oncogenic, or cancer-causing, viruses, especially if the meat is not cooked well. And it’s interest there are actually studies in the U.S. reporting a lower risk of lymphoma in women consuming well-done meat. You’d think it’s be the other way around because of the heterocyclic amines, the cooked meat carcinogens created when you grill chicken, but not if it’s the viruses in chicken that are responsible.
Oncogenic animal viruses have been suspected as causes of lymphoma among farmers and slaughterhouse workers, but this is just preliminary: meat consumption has not been connected with transmission of oncogenic viruses, yet.
And their third theory why poultry was so significantly associated with blood and lymph node cancers, is perhaps because chickens and turkeys are often treated with antiparasitic drugs and antibiotics to enhance growth of the animals and to treat and prevent disease, especially given the conditions many of them are now raised in. And indeed antibiotic use has sometimes been associated with the risk of lymphoma , however it it is unclear whether the association between antibiotic use and cancer risk is cause and effect and, more importantly, whether antibiotic use in food animals can affect cancer risk in human beings.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

See the "prequel," EPIC Findings on Lymphoma, and the one before it on general cancer rates. For more on industrial pollutants in meat, seeVegetarians Versus Healthy OmnivoresHarvard’s Meat and Mortality Studiesand Prevention Is Better Than Cured Meat. For more on cancer-causing viruses, see Breast Cancer Survival, Butterfat and ChickenMeat Additives to Diminish Toxicity and Carcinogens in the Smell of Frying Bacon. And for more on drug residues in meat, see Drug Residues in Meat. The mass use of antibiotics in chicken feed may also be contributing to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria (for example, see U.S. Meat Supply Flying at Half Staph). There are also hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Treating an Enlarged Prostate With DietHow To Reduce Dietary Antibiotic Intake, and How Tumors Use Meat to Grow