- Note - Guests on our program have been saying this for
years. It's about time organized medicine begins to admit it. This is
exactly why many 12 year old girls look 17-18.
- OTTAWA (CP) -- Consumption
of hormone-treated beef may be causing girls to reach puberty earlier than
they used to and making them more susceptible to breast cancer, say researchers
attending a world conference on breast cancer.
- It is "very likely" that hormone residues in
North American beef is a factor in the early onset of puberty among girls
in recent decades, said Carlos Sonnenschein of the Tufts University School
of Medicine at Boston.
- "There is no other reason to explain it," Sonnenschein
said in an interview Friday.
- Pediatricians say the onset of menstruation has steadily
decreased in recent decades. The average age for a first period is now
121/2, up from age 14 in 1900.
- Early onset of puberty with its raging hormones translates
into higher risk of breast cancer, said Sonnenschein.
- "The length and amount of exposure to estrogens
(a class of hormones) is one of the most significant risk factors in breast
- "Unless you are exposed to estrogens you don't get
breast cancer. The longer the exposure is, the higher the incidence. Therefore
if you decrease the age of menarche (first menstruation), you are at higher
- Hormones are used by cattle farmers in Canada and the
United States to increase the weight of cattle prior to slaughter. They
are currently the focus of a major trade dispute between North American
and the European Union.
- Annie Sasco, of the International Agency for Research
on Cancer at Lyons, France, said more study is needed but it makes sense
that hormone-treated beef could affect the onset of puberty.
- "Any exposure to a high level of hormones is associated
with earlier onset of puberty. It needs to be studied more but it makes
- She said the risk of breast cancer associated with hormone
residues in meat is not proven, and is probably small.
- "We all have estrogens and we need estrogens,"
she told the mainly female audience. "They are needed for life, for
being what we are. We cannot say, 'Ban estrogens.'
- "We all have to try, through our diet and physical
exercise, to keep our levels down. But there is a need to keep things in
perspective ... without getting into a complete panic."
- Even if the risk is small, she said it would be prudent
to stop the use of hormones in the cattle industry because there's no offsetting
health benefit for consumers.
- The European Union has banned the use of hormones for
fear they pose a health risk, and has banned imports of hormone-treated
Canadian and U.S. meat.
- The two North American countries have taken the dispute
to the World Trade Organization and have won the right to retaliate by
placing tariffs on European goods. Canada announced retaliatory tariffs
on a range of goods this week.
- The federal government maintains the hormones are safe,
despite strong misgivings on the part of its own scientists at the Health
- Four scientists with concerns have been placed under
orders not to discuss the issue in public.
- The incidence of breast cancer has been rising steadily,
most quickly in rich countries. In 1997, around the world, close to 400,000
women died of the disease.
- The number of new cases reported annually approached
900,000 in 1997, up from 572,000 in 1980.