Bovine leukemia virus is a cancer-causing microbe in cattle.
Just how many cows have it? The US Department of
Agriculture reports that nationwide, 89 percent of herds
contain cows with BLV. The most infected region is the
Southeast, where 99 percent of herds have the tumor-causing
bug. In some herds across the country, almost every single
animal is infected. A 1980 study across Canada uncovered a
lower but none-too-reassuring rate of 40 percent.
BLV is transmitted through milk. Since the milk from all
cows in a herd is mixed before processing, if even a single
cow is infected, all milk from that herd will have BLV
swimming in it. Citing an article in Science, oncologist
Robert Kradjian, MD, warns that 90 to 95 percent of milk
starts out tainted. Of course, pasteurization — when done the right way — kills BLV, but the
process isn't perfect. And if you drink raw milk, odds are you're gulping down bovine leukemia
Between dairy cows and their cousins that are used for meat (who tend to be infected at lower
rates), it appears that a whole lot of BLV is getting inside us. A 2001 study in Breast Cancer
Research detected antibodies to the bovine leukemia virus in blood samples from 77 out of 100
volunteers. Furthermore, BLV showed up more often in breast tissue from women with breast
cancer than in the tissue from healthy women. Several medical studies have found positive
correlations between higher intake of milk/beef and increased incidence of leukemia or
lymphoma in humans, although other studies haven't found a correlation.
No hard evidence has yet linked BLV to diseases in humans, but do you feel comfortable
knowing that cow cancer cells are in your body?