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All the world is nuts about

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News

November 1, 2002 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Is Cancer Lurking in That Yogurt Carton?

MYTH: Philip Morris has decided to donate ten cents from every package of Marlboro cigarettes to the American Cancer Society. Just tear off the label of any pack and send it to Philip Morris who will donate the money for cancer research and treatment.

FACT: For every pink lid from a Yoplait yogurt carton that you mail to the company a ten-cent donation will be made to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, up to $750,000. Combined with Yoplait's guaranteed donation of $750,000, the foundation can raise a total of $1,500,000.

For some the Phillip Morris Myth might incite laughter, but the Yoplait Fact might elicit admiration and a rush to the market to participate in a noble project. To others the Myth and the Fact are interchangeable. Both Philip Morris and Yoplait (a division of General Mills) are in the same business, marketing products suspected of causing cancer.

But yogurt is healthy, says the National Dairy Council. Not according to Professor T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University who says casein, a protein in milk, causes cancer. In a series of lab experiments he found that "we could turn on or turn off cancer growth by increasing or decreasing the amount of casein"

Campbell found that the lowest amount of casein needed to switch on tumor growth averaged about 10% of the diet. The typical American diet averages about 17% protein, but not all of that comes from casein.

E.J. Hawrylewicz, research director at Merry Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, found that laboratory rats were more likely to develop breast cancer when they were fed casein than they were when given soy protein. He discovered that to produce significant tumor growth he had to feed the rats a diet consisting of 20% casein. Yet Hawrylewicz believes casein is not harmful if consumed in modest amounts. Both scientists agree that a wise anti-cancer plan is to follow a diet emphasizing plant protein instead of the animal variety.

A study of U.S. women published in the May 9, 1998 issue of Lancet linked insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) with breast cancer. The study showed a 7-fold increased risk of breast cancer among pre-menopausal women with the highest levels of IGF-1 in their blood.

IGF-1 is a natural growth hormone found in human blood. A common practice on dairy farms is to increase milk production by injecting cows with with Posilac, a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) marketed by Monsanto. Not only do the cows produce 10 to 15% more milk, but their milk contains elevated levels of IGF-1. This IGF-1 can pass into the blood stream of anyone drinking the milk. The IGF-1 would ordinarily be broken down in the stomach, but the casein in the milk prevents the breakdown.

As of 2002 the Komen Foundation has raised $450,000,000 since it began 20 years ago. Of that money $90,000,000 has been awarded in research grants. One of those grants led to a researcher discovering BRCA1 breast cancer gene mutation in 1994. Another led to the discovery of tamoxifen, a drug used to keep estrogen-receptive breast cancer tumors under control.

VIP would like to suggest that the Komen Foundation fund studies to investigate whether hormones in milk and casein are factors in breast cancer. In encouraging such investigations, the Komen Foundation would answer the question, "Do milk and milk products like yogurt play a role in breast cancer?" Unfortunately, to encourage this research, the foundation might have to bite one of the hands that feed it.

VIP wonders if studies like the ones performed by Campbell and Hawrylewicz or the one reported in Lancet would ever be funded by the Komen Foundation. If the researcher suggested that casein or milk protein in yogurt might be a cancer cause, could the researcher be green lighted for the project? Not if it meant nailing the pink lid onto the yogurt carton!

Perhaps, the Myth and the Fact are more alike than we realize.

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