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Breast Cancer and Early Contact with Bovine Milk

(1) Immigrant Data and the Cohort Wise Rise in Incidence Rates point to the Time around Birth as an
Important one for Catching Breast Cancer

by Elisabeth Rieping (last update 2004/08/01)

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In Japan, where cow’s milk, as well as other diary products were not used as human food before Western habits reached the country, mammary
cancer was an uncommon disease [i].

Japanese immigrants to Hawaii and San Francisco were an interesting group to investigate for changes in rates of several types of cancer [ii].

While rates for neoplasms of other sites changed to the American number, those for mammary cancer remained stable for a rather long time, giving
support to speculations of hereditary differences [iii].

In the seventies of the last century, the first data showing a big rise in site specific incidence rates occuring among American born daughters of
Japanese immigrants in the region of San Francisco were published [iv],[v].

In Hawaii, where the immigration to the new country had taken place earlier, this change had not been seen [ii],[iv] . The population of Hawaii,
except for its Anglo - American part, consisted mainly of Polynesian, Chinese, Japanese, and later of Philippine descendents, which, like all East-
Asian peoples, did not use Cow's milk as human food [vi],[vii] and it is possible that this commen feature delayed the change in infant nutrition.

Some time before the data on Japanese immigrants were published , Haenszel, who had studied breast cancer incidence among Polish Americans, in
reanalysing his data, found that a rise in incidence rates could only be found in groups with a substantial American born component [viii].

These hints to the time of birth as an the decisive one for catching the disease, was confirmed by data collected in Iceland, Britan, USA, Finland,
which show that breast cancer incidence varies in a cohort-wise manner [ii], [iii]. [iv].

If an event affects a cohort, that means people with the same time of birth, it should be something which took place at the time when those persons
were born.
A change in diet, which could be responsible for the rising breast cancer incidence would have to exert its influence at an early time in the life of the
affected individual [ii], [ix].
Other factors that may influence breast cancer like radiation or the use of hair dyes or a change in adult diet would show less variation with the time
of birth, as women of different ages are likely to become radiated or to colour their hair or to use a new kind of food.

That mammary cancer incidence rises in cohort-wise manner in many examined countries stromgly hints to the time of birth as beeing one
important period of susceptibility.

[i] Segi M, Kurihara M, Matsujama T. Cancer Mortality in Japan, 1899-1962. Dep pof Public Health, Tokuho Univers School of Med, Sendai,

[ii] Smith RL. Recorded and expected Martality among the Japanese of the United States and Hawaii, with special reference ot cancer. J Nat Cancer
Inst 17: 459-473, 1956.

[iii] Buell P, Dunn JE Jr. Cancer mortality among Japanese Issei and Nissei of California. Cancer (Philad) 18:656-664, 1965.

[iv] Buell P, Changing incidence of breast cancer in Japanese American Women. J Natl Cancer Inst 51: 147-1483, 1973.

[v] Dunn JE. Cancer epidemiology in populations of the United States – with emphasisis on on Hawaii and California – and Japan. Cancer Res 35:
3240-3245, 1975.

[vi] Hahn E. Die Haustiere und ihre Beziehungen zur Wirtschaft des Menschen. Leipzig ,1896.

[vii] Sauer CO.Agricultural Origins and Dispersals. Am Geograph Soc, 1952.

[viii] Haenszel W, Cancer mortality among the foreign-born in the United States. J Nat Cancer Inst 26: 37132, 1961.

[ix] Owen A.Childhood overnutrition prediposes to the Later Development of Breast Cancer: An Hypothesis. Med Hypotheses 17: 249-250, 1985.

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