Seasonal patterns in outbreaks of disease suggest that the cause is the result of an infection. As an example, Burkitt’s lymphoma which caused by the Epstein Barr virus was originally thought to be caused by infectious agent because the incidence of this disease varied with the time of year.
Researchers from George Washington University, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Northwestern University in Chicago have just reported that the most aggressive form of breast cancer, known as inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), is seasonal: It occurs more frequently in areas of the United States where winters are particularly cold – rather like what we see with influenza.
IBC is characterized by a very rapid onset of breast redness and swelling. Often the patient is thought have a breast infection. When repeated rounds of antibiotics prove ineffective in resolving the ‘infection’, the patient is sent to the breast surgeon. A biopsy confirms the presence of IBC and aggressive treatment is begun immediately. Unfortunately, the prognosis is very poor.
Many scientists have suggested that the mammary tumor virus may play a role in cases of IBC. Several papers have reported finding evidence of this virus in 70% of patients with IBC here in the United States and in Africa.
The recent discovery that the incidence of IBC has a seasonal variation provides further support for an infectious cause of this disease. Obviously, more studies are needed to confirm and explain just how infection with the mammary tumor virus is associated with IBC – and other forms of breast cancer here and around the world.
Reference: Levine PH et al, (2016) “Seasonal Variation in Inflammatory Breast Cancer”, International Journal of Virology Studies & Research, 4(1), 17-21