Breast Cancer and Early Contact with Bovine Milk [0] Introduction: Breast Cancer before the Introduction of Cow

's Milk based Formulas as Infant Food

Last update by Elisabeth Rieping 01.08.2004 The use of cow’s and other animal’s milk to feed or console human infants is known since ancient times [i]. But it was seldom succesfull. In some regions there is a habit to put something like butter in the mouth of the newborn. Often a piece of cloth was soaked with some fluid like water, beer, wine or milk and honey to give the child something to put in its mouth as we today use a comforter (pacifier, soother, dummy). In rich families milk and honey were used. That cow’s milk was an expensive nutrient in many societies may have contributed to the peculiar distribution of breast cancer noted by Ramazzini around 1700[ii]. He had observed it’s increased occurrence in nuns. In the first epidemiologic study of cancer, published 1844[iii] Rigoni-Stern had analysed deaths in Verona between 1760 an1839. He showed that nuns were five times more likely to develop breast cancer than other women. Of cause it was thought that their special life style was causative for their disease. But in that time, becoming a nun was a possibility only for a very select group of the society and had rarely to do with religious feelings. Instead parents tried to put those daughters in a convent who could otherwise have claimed their part of the families inheritance. Of cause a dowry had to be paid for the entrance to the convent. So this life was only possible for daughters of rich families. Girls without dowry could only get a domestic job in a convent. But without a dowry they could not become a nun. Although the familiy of the nun had to pay a considerable sum, the later inheritance had not to be paid. So many rich families chose this life style for their daughters, if they did not want to divide their fortune. In this rich families the daughters as infants probably had more contact to expensive food like cow’s milk. So the nuns did not only have a rare life style, but a very select parentage, different from those of most other female inhabitants of Verona.

[i] Brüning H. Künstliche Säuglingsernährung. Enke Verlag, Stuttgart 1908 [ii]Mustacchi P Ramazzini and Rigoi Stern on Parity and Breast Cancer. Clinical impressinons and statistical corroboration. Arch Intern Med 1961 108: 639-642 [iii] Rigoni-Stern DA: Fatti staistici relativi alli malatie cancerose. Gior Servire Prop Path Terap 2: 507-517, 1842 cited after Shimkin MB. Some historical Landmarks in Cancer Epidemioogy. In: Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention ed. Schottenfeld D, Elsevier, 1982. Also in: Mustacchi P Ramazzini and Rigoi Stern on Parity and Breast Cancer. Clinical impressinons and statistical corroboration. Ach Intern Med 1961 108: 639-642 and in Scott J, Bailar JC 3rd. Rigoni-Stern and medical statistics. A nineteenth century approach to cancer research. J Hist Med Allied Sci 24: 6575,1969. Permalink Archive Library of Congress:*/