Milk & the Cancer Connection (II)

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1

excerpted from "Despite Industry Propaganda Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone Still Threatens Public Health" formerly published at

The "Milk is Milk" Industry Campaign Threatens Public Health

CHICAGO, Feb. 3 — The Cancer Prevention Coalition and Organic Consumers Association today released the following statement by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus, Environmental & Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition; and Ronnie Cummins, National Director, Organic Consumers Association.

Last month, the Hudson Institute's agribusiness-funded Center for Global Food Issues launched an aggressive "Milk is Milk" campaign to assure consumers that there is no difference between natural milk and that from cows injected with Monsanto's genetically-engineered or recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production and profitability.

This campaign is also aimed at preventing organic dairy farmers and retailers from making "false or misleading claims to be hormone-free, (and) nutritional and animal welfare perceptions, such as happier cows." Responding to Hudson's complaints, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will take action against such misleading marketing practices.

However, contrary to Hudson, there is a wealth of scientific information on the toxic veterinary effects of rBGH, major differences between rBGH and natural milk, and cancer risks posed by rBGH milk. Revealingly, Hudson uses the term rBST, recombinant Bovine Somatotropin, avoiding any reference to the word "Hormone" in Monsanto's original acronym rBGH.

Cows hyper-stimulated by repeated rBGH injections are seriously stressed. Such evidence, detailed in confidential Monsanto files submitted to the FDA in 1987, was anonymously leaked to one of us (Epstein) in November 1989. These files revealed widespread pathological lesions, infertility, and chronic mastitis, treated with illegal antibiotics.

Acting on this information, in 1990 the House Committee on Government Operations charged "that Monsanto and the FDA have chosen to suppress and manipulate animal health test data — in efforts to approve commercial use" of rBGH.

This charge is also consistent with the Committee's 1986 report, "Human Food Safety and the Regulation of Animal Drugs." This concluded that the "FDA has consistently disregarded its responsibility — has repeatedly put what it perceives are interests of veterinarians and the livestock industry ahead of its legal obligation to protect consumers — jeopardizing the health and safety of consumers of meat, milk and poultry."

By 1994, when FDA approved the use of rBGH under Monsanto's trade name Posilac, the label insert, seen only by dairy farmers, admitted that "its use is associated with increased frequency of use of medication in cows for mastitis," and some 20 other toxic effects. Such information on the Posilac label is clearly inconsistent with Hudson's criticism of "happier cow" claims by organic dairy farmers.

Also contrary to Hudson, rBGH milk differs qualitatively and quantitatively from natural milk. Fat levels, particularly long chain saturated fatty acids incriminated in heart disease, are increased, while levels of a thyroid hormone enzyme are increased.

Furthermore, the high incidence of chronic mastitis in rBGH injected cows results in contamination of their milk with pus, and with antibiotics used to treat the infection, with risks of allergic reactions and nationwide antibiotic resistance. Less well recognized is contamination of rBGH milk with the hormone itself, and immunological evidence of absorption of the hormone from the intestine.

Even more seriously, rBGH milk is contaminated with high levels of the natural Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), which regulates cell growth, division and multiplication throughout life, particularly in infants and young children; Eli Lilly, in its application for registration of rBGH, admitted that IGF-1 blood levels of injected cows are increased up to ten-fold. IGF-1 is resistant to pasteurization and digestion, and is readily absorbed from the small intestine.

More critically, increased IGF-1 blood levels have been incriminated as a major cause of cancer. IGF-1 induces uncontrolled growth of normal human breast cells in tissue culture, and has been incriminated in their transformation to cancer cells.

Some 30 publications, dating back to 1985, have reported strong associations between increased IGF-1 blood levels with increased risks of colon, and breast cancers.

A 1998 study, based on 300 healthy nurses, showed that elevated IGF-1 blood levels are strongly associated with up to a seven-fold increased risk of developing breast cancer. This is the highest known risk, approximating to that of a strong family history. More recent studies have also shown strong associations between increased IGF-1 blood levels and prostate cancer.

Of related concern is evidence that elevated IGF-1 levels inhibit the body's normal ability to protect itself from microscopic cancers by the natural process of programmed cell destruction, known as "apoptosis." This promotes the growth and invasiveness of early cancers, and also decreases their responsiveness to chemotherapy.

Acting on this cumulative evidence, a 1999 European Commission report by a team of internationally recognized experts concluded: "Avoidance of rBGH dairy products in favor of natural products would appear to be the most practical and immediate "dietary intervention to . . . (achieve) the goal of preventing cancer."

Furthermore, this warning has been endorsed (in our 2002 publication in a leading scientific journal) by over 100 leading independent experts in cancer prevention and public health, besides citizen activist groups.

This endorsement was coupled with insistence that the public has an absolute right-to-know of information on avoidable causes of cancer, a democratic right which the agribusiness and FDA continue to subvert.


Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, and Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition, 2121 West Taylor Street MC 922, Chicago, IL 60612; phone 312–996–2297; epstein at;

Ronnie Cummins, National Director, Organic Consumers Association, 6101 Cliff Estate Road, Little Marais, MN 55614; phone 218–226–4164; ronnie at

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