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    Breast Cancer & The West Nile Virus

    What exactly is the West Nile Virus and what is it's relationship to breast cancer?

    The WNV is a relative newcomer to the US. It was first found in the West Nile Region of Uganda in 1937. There have been sporadic outbreaks in the intervening years. Most cases of the virus resemble any other virus, with body aches and fevers.

    West Nile virus can cause a spectrum of illness which ranges from no symptoms to mild illness. In the very young, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system the virus may develop into fatal encephalitis or aseptic meningitis.

    Vocal protests about spraying are intermingled with health department warnings. The first epidemic in New York that started the spraying included 31 confirmed and 25 probable cases. There were seven deaths.

    For anyone who is undergoing chemotherapy low immune function is part of the cost of fighting cancer. So it would seem that breast cancer advocates would be happy that the local governments are taking strong steps to eradicate this virus.

    However, the use of pesticides is a double-edge sword. Are we protecting ourselves against WNV while simultaneously increasing our bodies with toxic chemicals?

    Some of these chemicals have been shown to increase estrogen activity in animals and consequently have been linked to breast-cancer risk. These pesticides are stored by the body in fatty tissue, including breast tissue.

    How big a risk these products pose is a matter of debate. Some studies suggest that environmental exposure is related to the risk of breast cancer only in postmenopausal women who have never breast-fed, and is not a risk factor for breast cancer for the population at large.

    Other studies of the potential effect of estrogenic organochlorines (such as DDT) on breast cancer risk have yielded inconsistent results. Most recently, a 2015 hosptial-based study on Long Island, New York investigated the risk for breast cancer in relation to levels of organochlorine compounds, such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). The result showed no evidence of risk of breast cancer

    No single study is definitive, however, and further research continues.

    Meanwhile, it might be wise to err on the side of caution by reducing your exposure to chemical pesticides.

    Last updated April 15, 2017

    Elsewhere on the Web:

    CDC West Nile Virus Homepage

    Pesticides, organochlorines as breast cancer risks



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