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Wart Cancer Viruses in Food

The wart-causing viruses in animals may present more than just a cosmetic issue for consumers.

October 7, 2010 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Image thanks to Rachel Clarke.


Last year, I talked about Butcher’s warts, a condition that afflicts those who handle fresh meat for a living because of the viruses in meat, but it’s more than just a cosmetic issue. Earlier this year, a landmark study of cancer mortality in poultry workers was released. We’ve known that people who handle a lot of fresh chicken get a lot of warts on their hands, but the concern is that some of the wart viruses are oncogenic, or cancer-causing. Workers in poultry slaughtering and processing are exposed to these cancer-causing viruses, some of which are the most potent cancer-causing agents known in animals, but what does that mean for people?
Well, compared to the general population, poultry workers appear to have an excess of cancers of the mouth, nasal cavities, throat. Cancer of the tongue, the tonsils, the inner ear, then down the esophagus, rectal/anal cancer, and liver, bone marrow, and blood cancers as well.
The reason it’s so important to study this group is because it’s possible that the cancer-causing viruses present in poultry and poultry products could be transmitted to anyone handing raw poultry. Proper cooking will kill any and all chicken wart and cancer viruses, but the problem is that meat may come into our homes fresh or frozen and contaminate our hands or kitchen surfaces before it gets into the pot.
Same concern with other meat. There was a fascinating case report about pork intake and human papillomavirus, HPV, which can cause cancerous anal and genital warts. Oh, the poor guy. 19 years old. Giant warty tumor nearly an inch in diameter protruding from the tip of his penis. They cut it off, but it grew right back and so they asked for a dietary history. He was eating more than a pound of pork a day. They told him to stop the pork, and the tumor completely regressed on its own—totally disappeared.
The doctors were so blown away, they even went as far as to suggest that the low cervical cancer rates in Israel could be because they eat so little pork.

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

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on poultry. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For more context, check out my associated blog post, Poultry and Penis Cancer.

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Heidi Woodruff

    So why do I have warts on my fingers? I have been vegan for four and a half years. How can I get rid of them?

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      The animal you most likely got your wart virus infection from was Homo sapiens. Wart viruses are thought to be typically transmitted when using a towel or something someone else with a wart has used. Salicylic acid is probably the most effective treatment (75% success rate compared to about 50% for placebo). Thanks for your question, Heidi!

  • Andrew Chris

    HI Dr I love your videos, keep up the good work. I have been trying to find information about the prevention of sore throats on your website. I am a vegetarian and do no have milk but I seem to constantly getting a sore throat can you help?

    • KyLee

      Hi Andrew, there are a number of reasons why someone might get a sore throat. If you’re getting them often, you might want to look at possible lifestyle factors. Things like pollution, not washing your hands, or even dehydration could contribute to the frequency and severity of the symptoms you’re feeling. Preventative dietary strategy? Drink lots of fluids (hot or room temperature) when you’re feeling a sore throat come on. You might want to try a warm bowl of Miso Soup to get the pro-biotic benefits (just don’t over-heat and kill the health promoting enzymes). Avoid alcohol. And make sure you’re getting vitamins and minerals such as Zinc, vitamin E and vitamin C. Oh, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep:

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also, please check out my associated blog post:!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please also check out my associated blog post, Poultry and Penis Cancer!