Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • News & Views
  • Published:

Risk factors

What do breast and CRC cancers and MS have in common?

Dairy cattle meat and milk factors are proposed as risks for colon and breast cancers. Several novel small circular DNAs that are genetically active in human cells have been isolated from bovine sera and milk. Such agents have also been detected in two lesions of multiple sclerosis. A unifying concept is presented putatively explaining the risks for these diseases that are associated with these factors.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Putative concept of multiple sclerosis pathogenesis.


  1. zur Hausen, H. Red meat consumption and cancer: reasons to suspect involvement of bovine infectious factors in colorectal cancer. Int. J. Cancer 130, 2475–2483 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. zur Hausen, H. & de Villiers, E.-M. Dairy cattle serum and milk factors contributing to the risk of colon and breast cancers. Int. J. Cancer 137, 959–967 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration. Global Burden of Cancer 2013. JAMA Oncol. 1, 505–527 (2015).

  4. Maytsetseg, B. & Riichiro, I. Changes and actual state of Mongolian meat market and distribution system: a case study of Ulaanbaatar City's “Khuchit Shonhor” food market. Presented at the International Association of Agricultural Economists Conference. (2006).

  5. Ji, J., Sundquist, J. & Sundquist, K. Lactose intolerance and risk of lung, breast and ovarian cancers: aetiological clues from a population-based study in Sweden. Br. J. Cancer 112, 149–152 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Ascherio, A. Environmental factors in multiple sclerosis. Expert Rev. Neurother. 13 (12 Suppl.), 3–9 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Whitley, C. et al. Novel replication-competent circular DNA molecules from healthy cattle serum and milk and multiple sclerosis-affected human brain tissue. Genome Announc., (2014).

  8. Bauer, G., Götschl, M. & Höfler, P. Tumor-promoting activity of Epstein-Barr-virus-inducing factor transforming growth factor type beta (EIF/TGF-beta) is due to the induction of irreversible transformation. Int. J. Cancer 47, 881–888 (1991).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Heilbronn, R., Bürkle, A., Stephan, S. & zur Hausen, H. The adeno-associated virus rep gene suppresses herpes simplex virus-induced DNA amplification. J. Virol. 64, 3012–3018 (1990).

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Manuelidis, L. J. Nuclease resistant circular DNAs copurify with infectivity in scrapie and CJD. J. Neurovirol. 17, 131–145 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Harald zur Hausen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

H.z.H. receives an unrestricted grant from ORYX, Munich.

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

zur Hausen, H. What do breast and CRC cancers and MS have in common?. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 12, 569–570 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing: Cancer

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Cancer newsletter — what matters in cancer research, free to your inbox weekly.

Get what matters in cancer research, free to your inbox weekly. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Cancer