Lung Cancer Higher in Slaughterhouse Workers

Nobel Prize winner finds that long-term exposure to meat pathogens increases risk of rare forms of lung cancer.

New research presented this week at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Austria by keynote speaker Harald Zur Hausen, MD found that exposure to and consumption of meat increases the risk of contracting lung cancer. Dr. Hausen—a Nobel Prize recipient for his work in connecting the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) with increased cancer risk—is currently researching the causes of lung cancer in patients who do not smoke, to determine the links between cancer and other factors such as diet. His findings indicate that slaughterhouse workers, butchers, and others exposed to animal carcasses, inhale oncogenic viruses—or viruses that can lead to cancer cell formation. Additionally, he found that consuming pathogens through animal products—including bovine milk—can also prove carcinogenic for humans. For context, Dr. Hausen focused on India, where smoking is prevalent but the consumption of animal products is not. “In India, there is one type of meat that is not being consumed, and that is beef,” Dr. Hausen said. “India has the lowest rate of colon cancer globally, and a relatively low rate of lung cancer as well.” Last year, the World Health Organization reclassified processed meat into the same carcinogenic category as tobacco.

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