- "Because of FDA's and Monsanto's
aggressive steps to prevent labeling of rBGH-produced milk, U.S. consumers
of milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk, cream, whipped cream, ice cream, iced
milk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt, custards
--and perhaps many baked goods as well --are very likely ingesting increased
quantities of IGF-1 today."
- Breast Cancer, rGBH, and Milk
- A study of U.S. women published May 9
in the LANCET links insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) with breast cancer.[1,2]
Earlier this year a study linked IGF-1 to prostate cancer. (See REHW
#593.) Prostate and breast cancers are major killers of men and women
in the U.S. and in other industrialized countries. IGF-1 levels are now
being artificially increased in much of the cows' milk being sold throughout
the U.S. These new cancer studies raise serious questions about the wisdom
of allowing IGF-1 levels to be raised in milk.
- The latest study found a 7-fold increased
risk of breast cancer among pre-menopausal women younger than age 51 with
the highest levels of IGF-1 in their blood. The prostate cancer study published
in SCIENCE in January, 1998, found a 4-fold increase in risk of prostate
cancer among men with the highest levels of IGF-1 in their blood. Thus
IGF-1 in blood is associated with larger relative risks for common cancers
than any other factor yet discovered.
- It is not clear from these studies whether
IGF-1 causes these cancers, or whether elevated IGF-1 accompanies some
other factor that causes these cancers. At the very least, researchers
are hoping that measurements of IGF-1 will identify individuals at high
risk of getting these cancers, so that surveillance might be increased.
(However, it would be common practice in the U.S. for people under such
surveillance to find their health insurance canceled, which tends to discourage
participation in surveillance programs.)
- IGF-1 is a powerful naturally-occurring
growth hormone found in the blood of humans. Dairy cows injected with genetically-engineered
bovine growth hormone (rBGH) give milk containing elevated levels of IGF-1,
and the IGF-1 in milk can pass into the blood stream of milk consumers.
Cows' IGF-1 is chemically identical to that in humans. Ingested IGF-1 would
ordinarily be broken down in the stomach, but the presence of casein in
milk prevents such breakdown.[4,5,6,7,8] (See REHW #454.) Thus these latest
cancer findings raise important public health questions about the safety
of milk from cows treated with bovine growth hormone (rBGH).
- rBGH is injected into cows to extend
by several weeks their period of lactation, and thus to force them to produce
more milk. rBGH is not needed in any way because U.S. dairy cows already
produce such an excess of milk that the U.S. government spends more than
$200 million each year purchasing surplus milk, a subsidy to the milk industry.
(See REHW #381, #384.) Because rBGH injections can cause numerous ill effects
in cows, veterinarians in Germany have refused to administer rBGH to cows
on grounds that it violates their professional code of ethics, which forbids
intentional harm to animals. (See REHW #483.) U.S. veterinarians have
not taken a similar stand.
- The latest study of IGF-1 and cancer,
reported this week in the LANCET --approximately the British equivalent
of the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION --examined 397 women
with breast cancer, and 620 carefully-matched controls. Their blood had
been drawn before any of the women were diagnosed with breast cancer, so
this was a prospective study --the most convincing kind there is. (The
prostate cancer study reported in January was also a prospective study.)
- The study found no relationship between
IGF-1 in blood and breast cancers among the entire group, or among the
post-menopausal group. However among pre-menopausal women increasing levels
of IGF-1 in blood were strongly associated with increasing risk of breast
cancer in a consistent dose-response relationship. Adjusting for other
known breast cancer factors (age at which menstruation began; age at birth
of first child; number of children; family history of breast cancer; and
weight in relation to height) did not change the results.
- Two previous studies had reported a relationship
between IGF-1 levels in blood and breast cancer.[9,10] However those were
"retrospective" studies in which the IGF-1 levels in blood were
measured AFTER the diagnosis of breast cancer, so it was possible that
the cancers caused the IGF-1 increases instead of the IGF-1 increases causing
the cancers. This latest study minimizes the likelihood that IGF-1 levels
are raised by breast cancers.
- The authors of the latest study say there
is "substantial indirect evidence of a relation between IGF-1 and
risk of breast cancer." They point to experiments showing that IGF-1
enhances the growth of cancerous breast cells in mice, and growth of healthy
breast cells in rhesus monkeys. In humans, very-low-calorie diets protect
against breast cancer and they also reduce blood levels of IGF-1. Low
birth weight is protective against breast cancer and low birth weight also
leads to low levels of IGF-1. Tall women tend to have an increased likelihood
of breast cancer and they also tend to have increased levels of IGF-1.
Tamoxifen, a chemical now being used to prevent breast cancer, is known
to reduce IGF-1 levels in the blood. Several other chemicals thought to
protect against breast cancer --such as vitamins A and D --may also lower
blood levels of IGF-1.
- It will be difficult for the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) to acknowledge that milk from rBGH-treated
cows might be implicated in common cancers. Historically, FDA has maintained
a very close relationship with Monsanto, the chemical company that spent
a billion dollars developing rBGH. FDA approved rBGH for cows in 1993
and issued regulations that made it appear to be illegal to label milk
rBGH-produced or rBGH-free. Some of the FDA officials who approved rBGH
and who established the regulations discouraging labeling had previously
worked for Monsanto. (See REHW #381.) In 1994, Monsanto sued two grocery
stores that labeled milk rBGH-free, because the chemical giant feared that,
given a choice, consumers would reject rBGH-produced milk. FDA's anti-labeling
regulations --signed into law by a former Monsanto official --were clearly
intended to help Monsanto succeed in this marketing ploy. Eleven separate
surveys have shown that Americans strongly prefer to have rBGH-treated
milk labeled as such. (See REHW #381.)
- Monsanto officials say their rBGH product
has been so successful among dairy farmers that they are building a new
factory in Augusta, Georgia to produce a lot more of it. They say they
intend to market the product world-wide. However in Canada and the
European Union, rBGH has so far not been approved for use, partly because
of unanswered health questions. The new studies linking IGF-1 to breast
and prostate cancers are unlikely to help rBGH gain approval in Canada
- Because of FDA's and Monsanto's aggressive
steps to prevent labeling of rBGH-produced milk, U.S. consumers of milk,
chocolate milk, buttermilk, cream, whipped cream, ice cream, iced milk,
cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt, custards --and
perhaps many baked goods as well --are very likely ingesting increased
quantities of IGF-1 today. (See REHW #383, #454, #483.)
- The milk industry --a powerful lobby
in the U.S. --is currently conducting a campaign to increase milk consumption
and top U.S. health officials are participating in the campaign. Recent
advertisements show Donna Shalala, the U.S. secretary of health and human
services, with a glass of milk in her hand and a "milk mustache"
on her upper lip. Ms. Shalala oversees the U.S. FDA, among other agencies.
- A few bold companies --such as Ben and
Jerry's, makers of gourmet ice cream --now label their products as rBGH-free.
However, other companies, such as Whole Foods, Inc. --an "organic"
grocery chain that owns Fresh Fields stores --claim to sell no dairy products
containing rBGH. Yet the Annapolis, Maryland Whole Foods outlet sells
cheeses from Cabot Dairies in Vermont and Cabot readily acknowledges that
it uses some milk from rBGH-treated cows. Thus rBGH may be even more widespread
than advertisements and store policy statements would lead consumers to
believe. In the U.S., it is legal for merchants to mislead consumers in
- Dr. Samuel S. Epstein at the University
of Illinois in Chicago in 1996 published a paper arguing that IGF-1 from
rBGH-treated cows may well promote cancer of the breast and of the colon
in humans who drink such milk. Epstein pulled no punches: "In short,"
he wrote, "with the active complicity of the FDA, the entire nation
is currently being subjected to an experiment involving large-scale adulteration
of an age-old dietary staple by a poorly characterized and unlabeled biotechnology
product [rBGH, which is genetically engineered by Monsanto]. Disturbingly,
this experiment benefits only a very small segment of the agrichemical
industry while providing no matching benefits to consumers. Even more
disturbingly, it poses major potential public health risks for the entire
U.S. population," Dr. Epstein wrote.
- Monsanto has bet the company's future
on genetically-engineered products, and rBGH is the first such product
to be marketed. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Monsanto will voluntarily
terminate the uncontrolled IGF-1 experiment being conducted now on the
American people. This is a company that plays hard ball. As we saw in
REHW #593, Monsanto lawyers frightened Fox TV executives into killing an
investigative series that raised questions about rBGH and cancer. Just
last month Monsanto wrote a threatening letter to Vital Health Publishing
in Bloomingdale, Illinois over the proposed publication of AGAINST THE
GRAIN, a book by Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey. Monsanto said the new book
would libel its best-selling product, the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate).
Lappe is an established medical writer and an acknowledged health policy
expert. His earlier books include TOXIC DECEPTION (1991), BREAKOUT --THE
EVOLUTION OF DRUG RESISTANT DISEASE (1995), and THE TAO OF IMMUNOLOGY (1997).
Lappe and Bailey run the Center for Ethics and Toxics in Gualala, California
(telephone 707-884-1700). After receiving Monsanto's threats, Vital Health
Publishing abandoned its plans to publish AGAINST THE GRAIN --even though
the book had already been printed --for fear of a Monsanto lawsuit, which
might put them out of business even if Monsanto lost in court. Happily,
Common Courage Press (Monroe, Maine; telephone 800-497-3207) will publish
AGAINST THE GRAIN in September. AGAINST THE GRAIN is a detailed account
of the perils of the new genetic technologies in agriculture. Monsanto's
rBGH represents the tip of a very dangerous iceberg. --Peter Montague (National
Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
- ===============  Susan E. Hankinson
and others, "Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor
I and risk of breast cancer," LANCET Vol. 351, No. 9113 (May 9, 1998),
-  Jeff Holly, "Insulin-like growth
factor-I and new opportunities for cancer prevention," LANCET Vol.
351, No. 9113 (May 9, 1998), pgs. 1373-1375.
-  June M. Chan and others, "Plasma
Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I and Prostate Cancer Risk: A Prospective Study,"
SCIENCE Vol. 279 (January 23, 1998), pgs. 563-566.
-  C.J. Xian and others, "Degradation
of IGF-I in the adult rat gastrointestinal tract is limited by a specific
antiserum or the dietary protein casein," JOURNAL OF ENDOCRINOLOGY
Vol. 146 (1995), pgs. 215-225.
-  R.K. Rao and others, "Luminal
Stability of Insulin-Like Growth Factors I and II in Developing Rat Gastrointestinal
Tract," JOURNAL OF PEDIATRIC GASTROENTEROLOGY AND NUTRITION Vol. 26,
No. 2 (February 1998), pgs. 179-185.
-  Toshikiro Kimura and others, "Gastrointestinal
Absorption of Recombinant Human Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I in Rats,"
THE JOURNAL OF PHARMACOLOGY AND EXPERIMENTAL THERAPEUTICS Vol. 283, No.
2 (November 1997), pgs. 611-618.
-  Douglas G.G. Burrin and others, "Orally
administered IGF-I increases intestinal mucosal growth in formula-fed neonatal
pigs," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSIOLOGY Vol. 270, No. 5 Part 2 (May
1996), pgs. R1085-R1091.
-  A.F. Philipps, "Growth of artificially
fed infant rats: effect of supplementation with insulin-like growth factor
I," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSIOLOGY Vol. 272, No. 5 Part 2 (May 1997),
-  Peter F. Bruning and others, "Insulin-Like
Growth-Factor-Binding Protein 3 is Decreased in Early-Stage Operable Pe-Menopausal
Breast Cancer," INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CANCER Vol. 62 (1995), pgs.
-  J. P. Peyrat and others, "Plasma
Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) Concentrations in Human Breast Cancer,"
EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CANCER Vol. 29A, No. 4 (1993), pgs. 492-497.
-  David J. Hunter and Walter C. Willett,
"Diet and Body Build: Diet, Body Size, and Breast Cancer," EPIDEMIOLOGIC
REVIEWS Vol. 15, No. 1 (1993), pgs. 110-132.
-  See Monsanto's rBGH information
at http://www.monsanto.com/protiva/ where rBGH is referred to by its trade
name, Posilac, or by another name Monsanto invented for the product, bovine
somatotropin or BST.
-  One of Ms. Shalala's milk ads was
reprinted in the BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL Vol. 316 (February 14, 1998),
pg. 498. The caption reads, "Donna Shalala, the United States secretary
of health and human services, has been criticised for her promotion of
milk. The milk industry is a powerful lobby in the US and critics say
the endorsement could be the first step on a slippery slope."
-  Samuel S. Epstein, "Unlabeled
Milk from Cows Treated with Biosynthetic Growth Hormones: A Case of Regulatory
Abdication," INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HEALTH SERVICES Vol. 26, No.
1 (1996), pgs. 173-185.
- Descriptor terms: milk; igf-1; rbgh;
bovine growth hormone; monsanto; carcinogens; breast cancer; prostate cancer;
fda; donna shalala; canada; europe; whole foods; fresh fields; ben and
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