This week I’ve been on a number of different TV shows talking about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, all things pink, and how we can move breast cancer research forward. Join the conversation—watch these shows and then post your comments below.

Watch CNN American Morning.

Watch the TODAY show.

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4 Responses to On TV: Beyond “Awareness”

  1. Michael N. Hull says:

    I noticed your comment on TV that you would not be surprised if breast cancer was shown to have a viral origin.

    In the book “Plague Time” by Paul Ewald, Anchor Books 2000 and :2002 it is stated on page 105: “Infectious causation has been virtually ignored by most experts on breast cancer despite the infectious causation of mammary tumors that is the rule rather than the exception among other mammals. Two research groups have recently found evidence of retroviruses in breast tumors but not in surrounding healthy tissue. The viral sequences are indistinguishable from those of a virus that causes tumors in mice, the mouse mammary tumor virus. More than one third of the human breast cancers were positive for the virus, whereas less than 2% of the normal breast tissue had evidence of viral genes. The geographic distribution of breast cancer mirrors the geographic distribution of the virus’s primary host – the house mouse Mus domesticus – suggesting that breast cancer may be in part a disease acquired from mice.”

    On page 229 one reads: “At the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine 1000 breast tumor samples were tested and over 1/3 had genetic swatches nearly identical to mouse mammary tumor virus, a slow-growing retrovirus that is transmitted through mother’s milk in mice and causes cancer in female progeny. But the very suggestion that some breast cancer could be caused by infection raises the hackles of the medical community.”

    There is also evidence that breast cancers are higher in women who eat red meat. See for example: Nov. 13, 2006 — RED MEAT LINKED TO BREAST CANCER A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School finds that eating red meat may be linked to an increase in certain types of breast cancer. In comparing women with breast cancer to women without breast cancer, researchers find that women with hormone positive tumors were more likely to eat red meat on a regular basis. They did not find a relationship between red meat and hormone-negative breast cancer tumors. However, the study is not definitive. The differences in breast cancer risk were overall quite small, and in some cases may be due to chance. More research is needed. These findings were published in the most recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    Having lived on a farm and fed cows and cattle I know that the cattle feed is contaminated by mice. I suspect that viruses from mice get into cows and cattle and from there into the human body by the consumption of red meat and milk. This is an area of research that should be thoroughly explored.

    Michael N. Hull

  2. Vila Polaco says:

    Dear Dr. Susan, your second edition of Breast Book better know as a “down to earth guide.. The bible of women with breast cancer” the timing couldn’t be better. Thirsty for knowledge I drank the 526 pages and as read on and my thirst was clench I began to have peace and preparation for my DR. appointment, much to my delight it was nothing that I have not read it the book. What a wonderful think is to find you in the month of October Breast cancer awareness month. I will be sharing your blog with my friends and also on FB thank you! Vila

  3. mary says:

    I think Michael Hull’s information above about mice and red meat is fascinating, and it doesn’t seem like this would be that hard to prove or disprove. Just getting a group of vegetarians and a group of red meat eaters who have both had and not had breast cancer and studying blood work, cells, etc. I think we need to think, and fund more studies, outside the box—time to find the CAUSE!! 🙂

  4. Michael N. Hull says:


    About 8% of the breast cancers is due to BRAC gene factors but most of the research funding is going to this area leaving the other 90+% of the cancers underfunded.

    Many medical leaders dismiss infection as a cause of cancers of the breast but they held similar views against the infectious causation of cervical cancer and liver cancer twenty-five years ago.

    In my opinion many cancers are caused by a viral or bacterial infection. In my previous posting I suggested a line of research along the viral line which I think accounts for about 30% or breast cancers and here is a thought about a bacterial cause for other breast cancers.

    I read a study (darned if I can find the reference now) that suggested antibiotics might increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Women who took the most antibiotics – who had more than 25 prescriptions or who took the drugs for at least 500 days – faced double the risk of developing breast cancer over an average of about 17 years compared with women who didn’t use the drugs, the study showed. The study involved 2,266 women 20 and older who developed invasive breast cancer and who were compared with 7,953 women who did not get breast cancer. An increased breast cancer risk was found for all types of antibiotics, including penicillins.

    Several explanations for this correlation were proposed. For example, a weakened immune system might lead to cancer development, or women who have not taken any antibiotics may be a uniquely healthy group in terms of general well-being or lifestyle factors, or antibiotics can affect bacteria in the intestine which may impact the way certain foods that protect against cancer are broken down in the body, etc.

    In the book that I mentioned in my previous posting Ewald also pointed out that in 1874 Arthur Boettcher published a paper on a small, curved bacterium that he found repeatedly in ulcers of the stomach. Over the next half century, several other scientists confirmed this finding and some also experimentally transmitted the bacterium to lab animals. By the late 1940s peptic ulcers were successfully being treated with antibiotics in New York City hospitals. Then around 1950 discussions of infectious causation of ulcers disappeared from the literature and from the treatment regimen. The medical texts from 1950 to 1990 attributed peptic ulcers to gastric acidity, stress, smoking, alcohol and genetic predisposition – everything but infection. Thousands suffered and died because antibiotic treatment of peptic ulcers was not recognized until 1995 instead of 1955. It was then that Marshall discovered one of his patients with dyspepsia improved after having been treated for a chest infection with tetracycline. He noticed that the bacilli in the stomach wall had vanished and from there came the discovery of Helicobacter pylorium. The inflammation caused by this infection caused cancer of the stomach and also a rare type of lymphoma of the gut.

    If one extends these thoughts to consider that a fraction of breast cancers may have a bacterial (rather than a viral or genetic) etiology then the increased rate of breast cancer development in women undergoing prolonged treatment with antibiotics can be understood as follows:

    It is common knowledge that antibiotics knock out much of the natural enteric bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract which allows Clostridium difficile to proliferate. Pathogenic strains produce two toxic polypeptides. One is an enterotoxin that causes excessive fluid secretion but also stimulates an inflammatory response and has some cytopathic effect. The other is a cytotoxin.

    The creation of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the ducts of the breast may act in an analogous manner, i.e. normal breast duct flora are suppressed and an antibiotic-resistant pathogen that is not part of the normal flora proliferates acting, like C. difficile in the GI tract, to stimulate cytopathic, cytotoxic, and chronic inflammatory responses within breast tissue. The long term result may be the development of a breast cancer.

    It is also quite remarkable how many cancer tumors shrink when patients are treated with very powerful antibiotics, such as Doxil. (Most cancer researchers would argue that the antibiotic is acting solely on the cancer cells.) These cancers respond initially to treatment but after a certain period of time the tumors regrow. One might argue that the infectious organism had no initial resistance to the new drug but with continued use antibiotic resistance developed.

    Incidentally, I am not a physician. I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and I am now retired after many years in research. Since my retirement I have read a lot of the research literature on cancer and have developed a personal opinion that practically all cancers have an infectious origin (viral or bacterial). Medical researchers seem to have developed a lot of dogmas on the causes of cancer which limits out-of-the-box thinking in this research. For example, it is nearly universally argued that sunlight is the principal cause of skin cancer. Yet the facts are that Blacks and Asians get melanoma almost exclusively on skin that is not exposed to sunlight: the palms, soles, and mucous membranes. Even in whites, the most common melanoma sites – the leg in women, the trunk in men – are not the most sun-exposed body parts (NY Times July 20, 2004 Science Section).


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