Transcript: Pets & Human Lymphoma
Every year, for example, 60,000 Americans come down with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—a blood cancer that goes on to kill about 1 in 3 patients. There’s been a significant rise in incidence in past decades, and no one really knows why.
Some have suspected exposure to the bovine leukemia virus, which infects the majority of herds in this country, and can cause similar tumors in cattle. More than five years ago, we learned that about three-quarters of people tested have been exposed to this virus; likely, through their consumption of meat and dairy products.
The risk may extend beyond those just eating animal products, though. The viral contamination of meat, in general, can give people who handle fresh meat for a living unpleasant conditions, with names like contagious pustular dermatitis. In fact, meat is so laden with viruses that there’s a well-defined medical condition colloquially known as “butcher’s warts,” which affects the hands of those who handle fresh meat—including poultry and fish. Even the wives of butchers appear to be at higher risk for cervical cancer, a cancer definitively associated with wart virus exposure.
So, in the first study of its kind, researchers looked at farm animal exposure as a risk factor for human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. To be fair, though, there’s also feline leukemia virus. And a child is likely to have more intimate contact with their family cat or dog, or other pets, than with livestock. Animal contact and cancer risk—harmful, harmless, or helpful? And no matter how this comes out, remember, I’m just the messenger.
In terms of our risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, contact with cows—harmful, harmless, or helpful? Harmful, increases our risk.
What about pig contact? Harmful, harmless, or helpful? Same as cattle; harmful, increases our risk.
What about having a cat? Or three, like we do. Do cats increase our cancer risk, do nothing to our cancer risk, or maybe having cats is even protective against cancer? What do you think? It turns out cats are protective against cancer. In fact, even if you don’t live with a cat now, but did in the past, you seem to be protected against developing lymphoma.
All right, now, for you dog people. Canine companionship—now, or in the past: harmful, harmless, or helpful? Good boy.
And finally, what about other companion animals, like corn-loving hamsters? Rodents in the house—increased risk, no risk, or decreased risk? Decreased risk.
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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