Concerned about the antibiotic residues in the chicken you are eating? It turns out that antibiotics is only one of a number of ‘additives’ that may be finding their way into poultry meat. Scientists from Johns Hopkins and Arizona State University researching the presence of antibiotics in poultry not only detected banned antibiotics but also found traces of Benadryl, Tylenol, caffeine, arsenic and personal care products (which could mean anything from chapstick to cosmetics to perfume).1
To quote one of the authors of the study, “It is unbelievable what we found.” Not quite unbelievable. It is known that arsenic is fed to poultry to prevent infection and give the meat a more appealing color. Benadryl and Tylenol have a sedative effect on the birds, which given their concentration camp like confinement, might be a blessing for them at least. It isn’t clear why caffeine and cosmetics would be found, but I suppose we should be happy on two accounts: Prozac was only found in Chinese poultry, and, it makes one all but forget about ‘pink slime’.
The studies were actually done on chicken feathers, which might one hope that the contaminants wouldn’t actually find their way into the meat. But, unfortunately, post-slaughter, the feathers are ‘rendered’ (meaning melted down and ground up, more or less) into ‘feather meal’. The feather meal is then processed into animal feed and fertilizer. So, these chemicals are being widely recycled into our food supply.
And those amongst us who could be feeling a tad comforted by the fact that they eat organically might want to reconsider. Feather meal is an acceptable ingredient in ‘organic fertilizer’.
Speaking of cosmetics, a recently released study from the Journal of Applied Toxicology 2 found that a common cosmetic ingredient to be present in 158 out of 160 samples of breast tissue collected from 40 different cancer related mastectomies.
The ingredient in question is a class of chemical compounds called parabens. They are widely used as preservatives in varying forms of cosmetic products, including underarm deodorant, shampoos, shaving gels, pharmaceuticals and food additives. Although parabens are effective and inexpensive ingredients, they also are known to have an estrogenic effect promoting the development of tumors, especially in the breast.
This estrogenic effect, often termed ‘estrogen mimicry’, occurs when molecules attach themselves to cellular estrogen receptor sites disturbing normal estrogen metabolism. How these substances act appears not to be fully understood as of yet. It is thought that they can actually act to either mimic natural estrogen or conversely, to block the action of natural estrogen because they are occupying the receptor sites.
Also, it seems that varying doses of the same mimic will affect the body in different ways. A stronger dose does not necessary cause a more powerful but similar reaction as a lower dose. This phenomenon, though somewhat counterintuitive but familiar to anyone well versed in homeopathy, is known as ‘nonmonotonc dose response’.
As an example, when rats are exposed to 100 parts per billion of the infamous synthetic estrogen DES that was given to pregnant women for 30 years during the mid 20th century, the rats became emaciated. But when they were given only 1 part per billion, they developed morbid obesity.
There are known estrogen mimics – otherwise known as ‘environmental estrogens’ or ‘xenoestrogens’ - in a wide range of manmade chemicals such as plastics, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, PCBs, and, of course, personal care products. Recent research has also there is a class of mimics comprised of metals such as aluminum, cadmium, lead, tin, and mercury, to name but a few, that are now being implicated in cancers.3
Amongst these, cadmium has been the focus of research indicating that women with higher dietary consumption were 21% more likely to develop breast cancer than those with lower intake. While foods such as potatoes, whole grains, and shellfish are natural sources of cadmium, it also finds its way in to the food supply from fossil fuel air pollution naturally and fertilizers. Another source is costume jewelry manufactured in China.
Estrogen pollution is not only implicated in cancer, but is also thought to be a chief cause of endometriosis – a disease in which uterine cells grow outside the uterus, and contributes to low sperm counts in males of all species. It has also been connected to a number of neurological diseases because these compounds can alter brain function.
Despite these pervasive pathological effects, the most common serious consequence of estrogen pollution appears to be cancer of the female reproductive system, especially breast cancer.
1. Kristof, Nicholas. ‘Arsenic in Our Chicken?’. NY Times, April 4, 2012 2. Journal of Applied Toxicology, V. 32, # 3, pgs 219-232, March 2012
3. Healy, Melissa. ‘Cadmium in diet is linked to higher breast cancer
risk’, LA Times, March 15, 2012.
In human beings, adipose tissue, or what we commonly call ‘body fat’ is found beneath the skin, around certain organs, in the bone marrow and in the breast. Actually, fat only makes up about 80% of adipose tissue and it is a highly complex substance that performs many functions. It contains connective tissue, nerve tissue, vascular tissue and immune cells.
Body fat is a significant endocrine organ, both receiving signals from the hormonal system elsewhere in the body as well as secretes endocrine substances. For instance, one of the most significant of these is leptin, which is a hormone that is essential for regulating energy on a metabolic level and is plays a key role in controlling weight. Another substance is plasminogen, a precursor of plasmin, which plays a key role in blood clotting. In addition, these cells also play a role in the metabolism of certain forms of steroid hormones.
The human breast is primarily composed of adipose tissue that surrounds the mammary glands. This is the reason why the breast changes in size and hardness based on various hormonal fluctuations during puberty, menopause, menstruation, stimulation and lactation. While both sexes have breasts with adipose and mammary glands, only females develop during puberty due to the stimulation of estrogen and other sex hormones. The male breast remains undeveloped and is less hormonally sensitive.
Because of their hormonal sensitivity, it is easy to understand why the female breast is susceptible to disease due to hormonal irregularities. In addition, adipose tissue is also a significant repository for various types of toxins that accumulate in the body. Two of the most significant classes of these are heavy metals - such as mercury, cadmium, aluminum, lead, copper, chromium and nickel - and what is generally know as ‘POPS’ – persistent organic pollutants.
Heavy metals, particularly cadmium, have been shown to be hormone disruptors that mimic the effect of estrogen and thus enhance estrogen activity. Most breast cancer is initially estrogen sensitive and is stimulated by the increased estrogen. In addition, the metals have been connected to the production of destructive free radicals, damage to lipid cells, DNA damage and tumor growth.
These hydrocarbons (consisting of hydrogen and carbon) have an affinity for fat tissue because they are ‘lipophilic’, meaning that they dissolve in fat tissue. Primary examples are PCBs, often found in coolant fluid, PBDEs and other flame retardants, DDT and other pesticides such as Mirex, Toxaphene, and hexachlobenzene. They are also found in plastics, paints and many other substances that have become an integral part of modern human society.
At this point, contamination is pervasive throughout the globe, spread from their source by wind and water, they can be found in the Antarctic as well as the distant tropical seas. The process of ‘bioaccumulation’ and ‘biomagnification’ enhances the effects of POPS, especially in humans and other living organisms at the top of the food chain. Since they are fat soluble but have extremely poor water solubility, POPS move from water environments which they may have contaminated and bioaccumulate in organisms that have fat cells.
They first accumulate in phytoplankton and other microorganisms, then by animal planktons, and continue to work their way up the food chain: through invertebrates, then smaller fishes to larger ones, to birds and mammals. At each successive ‘trophic level’, the effects of the pollutants are magnified because the concentration increases and they are not released when the body uses the fat cells for energy production. Research has shown that by the time they reach the top of the food chain, POPS can reach concentrations of 70,000 times the ‘background amount’ found in soil and water.2
Of course, breast disease is not the only outcome of exposure to POPS.
They are especially toxic to children. Early exposure, whether in utero or thereafter, has been linked to lowered immune function, abnormal reproductive system develop, diminished cognitive function and higher risks for cancer.3
Given the pervasiveness of various forms of environmental pollution, whether heavy metals, POPS or the ever increasing exposure to various manmade electromagnetic frequencies, a proactive approach toward avoiding these influences, diagnosing their presence in various body tissues and eliminating them via physiological mechanisms of detoxification is essential in maintaining health over the long term.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of healthcare today is not proactive at all. Instead, it is geared toward providing dramatic and often destructive interventions once the internalized toxicity manifests as overt pathologies and tissue degeneration.
Given the vulnerability of breast tissue to absorbing high levels of pollutants, it would be especially beneficial if there were truly prophylactic diagnostic and treatment options available to women in particular. Ironically, even some of the most widespread diagnostic procedures currently used are toxic in and of themselves – and not necessarily all that accurate.
1. Blaurock-Busch, E. PhD, “ Chelation Corner - Toxic Metals and Breast Cancer: New Research and Development, Townshend Newsletter, 08/07
2. “What are POPS?”, World Bank, http://go.worldbank.org/K0JIG6N290
3. "Persistent Organic Pollutants: Impact on Child Health", World Health Organization, 2010
The susceptibility of breast tissue to the accumulation of toxins as well as the consequent high rate of breast cancer has made early stage diagnosis a priority for many decades. But the widely accepted diagnostic procedure of choice, mammography, is not without significant flaws.
So great indeed are the problems with mammography that some are now wondering whether the negative consequences outweigh the benefits. The controversial nature of the procedure is highlighted even further by the fact that there is another imaging technique available that is in many ways less problematic and also possesses a superior capacity to diagnose prophylactically, that is to indicate changes in breast tissue before the actual development of cancer. This technique can often identify abnormalities years before X-rays.
Mounting concern about mammography culminated in a report issued nearly 3 years ago by the US Preventive Services Task Force – a Congressionally authorized & governmentally supported group of independent experts charged with making recommendations about preventive services – that suggested that women wait another 10 years until the age of 50 before having regular mammograms, and that they only get them every two years as opposed to annually.
The most obvious risk that led to the changed recommendation is the exposure to ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation, like X-rays, produces electrically charged particles – ions – that damage biological tissue. It causes cancer, and even though the risk is often minimized, mammograms are cancerous.
There is also concern that ‘mammographic compression’, the squeezing of the breast that takes place, during the procedure is damaging to the tissue and can cause the spread of cancer if it is already present.
Another problem is the fact that interpretation of mammograms leads to a considerable number of false positives. These misdiagnoses, in turn, lead to invasive diagnostic procedures such as biopsies and treatment, both of which are unnecessary and harmful. Part of the problem is that the technology does not allow radiologists to differentiate between harmful invasive cancers and non-invasive cancers that may not need aggressive treatment.
Recently, Harvard published research that indicated there is a 20% incidence of over-diagnosis, and that for every one woman who has been detected with breast cancer, 6 to 10 will mistakenly diagnosed. The study points out that “Radiologists have been trained to find even the smallest of tumors… (and) that this practice has a caused a problem for women – diagnosis of breast cancer that wouldn’t cause symptoms or death.”
Dr. Christine Northrup, a well known and widely published authority on women’s health, cites the research indicating “that mammograms often led to needless treatments and were linked to a 20 percent increase in mastectomies, many of which were unnecessary”, and that “if a woman has an annual mammogram for 10 years, she has a 50 percent chance of having a breast biopsy."
On the other hand, it is estimated that nearly one in 5 cancers can be missed by mammography. This is particularly an issue for women with high breast tissue density, which is nearly 50% of the population. Dr. Joseph Mercola points out that “mammography's sensitivity for dense breasts is as low as 27 percent—meaning about 75 percent of dense-breasted women are at risk for a cancer being missed if they rely solely on mammography.”
In contrast to all the challenges presented by mammography, a technology known as “thermography” has many advantages. Thermography, or “thermographic imaging”, creates images showing the variations in heat being emitted from an object or a certain area. It has long been used in industry and commerce and for the last 30 years has been an FDA approved medical diagnostic procedure.
The screening procedure uses ultra-sensitive, infra-red cameras to capture images of the breast to aid in the early detection of breast irregularities. Sophisticated computers analyze the images to detect the minute increases in surface temperature and vascular changes that may be occurring within the breast.
Thermography is based on the fact that the presence of cancer is associated with a phenomenon called ‘neoangiogenesis’, meaning the production of new blood vessels and the activation of previously inactive blood vessels. The resultant increase in circulation provides the necessary nutrients to feed the malignant tissue. The increased vascular activity increases temperatures in the affected area, which is picked up by the imaging.
There is a law of physics stating that all objects with a temperature above absolute zero (about 459 degrees Fahrenheit below 0) emit heat. The heat energy thus produced falls in a part of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation known as ‘infrared light’. With wavelengths longer than those the human eye can detect, heat or ‘thermal energy’ is felt but has long been an invisible domain.
This changed in the early 1950’s when a technology was developed that made it possible to see the thermal energy emanating from an object. In the half century since, the technology producing these thermal images has evolved into a highly sophisticated and accurate means to make visible patterns of energy that can reveal crucial information about the nature of the object being viewed.
Digital Infrared Thermographic Imaging (DITI), otherwise known as ‘Medical Infrared Thermographic Imaging’ (MTI) is, as the latter name implies, the use of this technology on living organisms for medical purposes. More specifically, it is a powerful diagnostic technique that can reveal physiological abnormalities in the body, oftentimes well before gross pathological changes have manifested.
This is due to the fact that unlike many diagnostic procedures, with DITI the diagnostician is looking for patterns of energy – in this case heat energy, and not organic tissue changes. Invariably, in any disease process, organic tissue change is preceded by some shift in healthy physiological processes accompanied by changes in the metabolism and cellular activity. Consequently, the energy patterns emitted by the body will also be altered.
The ‘digital map’ of the body that is created using DITI has been especially useful in revealing the following conditions:
• Inflammatory processes seen in arthritis, heart disease, physical trauma, amongst many other condition,
• Irritation of nerve tissue associated with chronic pain,
• Unusually rapid development of blood vessels – known as neoangiogenisis - that accompanies cancer.
All of these applications are due to the fact that the surface temperature of the body rises in areas where inflammation, nerve irritation or increases in blood vessels appear. Thermograms can also distinguish a characteristic appearance associated with neoangiogenisis.
Because of the superficial position of the breasts on the body, thermography is especially useful accurate in detecting abnormalities in breast tissue. This is why currently by far the most common application – and one that has been officially approved by the FDA for over 30 years – is for the diagnosis of breast cancer.
In comparison to mammography, DITI has many advantages:
• A thermographic image will not produce false positives for scar tissue, implants or fibrocystic conditions. It is often quite difficult to differentiate these from malignant tissue with mammograms, so women often are forced to undergo further testing which can be quite invasive and otherwise unnecessary.
• Thermography does a better job at visualizing dense breast tissue than mammography. The dense tissue will appear nearly opaque in mammogram and it occurs in a large percentage of women, especially younger women.
• It is not dangerous. There is no destructive ionizing radiation as in the case of mammography, so it doesn’t cause the very condition that is being diagnosed.
• There is no need to flatten the breast or otherwise traumatize the tissue using DITI like there is in mammography.
Diagnostically, it also is quite accurate. A research trial performed at New York Presbyterian Hospital–Cornell, published this spring in the Annals of Internal Medicine, studied 94 women who were recommended for breast biopsies based on mammograms and ultrasound, and who also were given DITI. Of this group, 58 of the 60 women – 97% - who had positive biopsies had been identified by DITI.
In another study, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin found that thermal imaging when reviewed by trained experts is 10 times more accurate at determining if a person will develop breast cancer compared to her family history.
Even more notable is the fact that the research showed that many seemingly abnormal thermograms that did not correlate with positive mammograms at the time were accurate predictors of cancer. That is, the thermogram was showing a disturbance in the breast tissue that years later – sometimes as much as 8 to 10 years – developed into a cancer diagnosable via mammography or a biopsy.
Obviously, if heeded, this advanced warning would allow for the possibility to take preventative measures to avoid further deterioration as well as improve the condition in the breast. These might include any number of modalities such as diet, nutritional supplementation, botanical medicines, acupuncture, homeopath and the like.
Cancer doesn’t just happen. It is a process that evolves over time. The current binary medical model of diagnosis – one either has cancer or doesn’t – is outmoded and misleading. Thermography is a tool that gives a picture of the state of breast tissue and affords a person the opportunity to respond proactively.