Scientists raise fears that owning a cat could increase the risk of brain cancer

By | April 7, 2021

No one likes their pet to be ­accused of spreading disease. I remember some time ago there was news that a parasite from dogs, Toxocara canis, could be passed on through contamination from dog faeces – and the campaign to use pooper-scoopers was born.

Now the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come out with a disturbing statistic that roughly 40 million people in the United States have a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii living in their brains.

This parasite can spread to people from their pet cats, reports Dan Robitzski, scientist and writer.

The reason we should all take notice of this is because toxoplasmosis, the disease caused by the toxoplasma parasite, seems to run parallel with an increased risk of the brain cancer glioma, according to the American Cancer Society research.

The research considered two groups of people – from an American Cancer Society study and the Norwegian Cancer Registry’s Janus Serum Bank – to compare the prevalence of glioma and T gondii antibodies in patients’ blood samples.

The analysis showed a clear link between the two but it is only a link. It isn’t proof.

The study doesn’t prove a cause and effect between the parasite and the development of brain cancer.

So if you’re a cat owner don’t get anxious, this study certainly doesn’t suggest that owning a cat increases your risk of cancer.

Rather, the probability is that the two factors (toxoplasmosis and brain cancer) are somehow linked, or that one factor somehow makes people more vulnerable to the other.

And while the overall trend of the data is skewed heavily towards a correlation between the parasite and brain cancer, the data also suggests that a small number of toxoplasmosis patients seemed to have a lower risk of developing glioma, or that there was no link at all.

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Another point to consider is that people with toxoplasmosis are possibly more likely to be exposed to other things that can cause cancer.

So the correlation is by no means certain.

The numbers are small but the study does pave the way for further research. We also need a lot more research to nail the relationship, if any, between cats and brain cancer.

“Our findings provide the first prospective evidence of an association between T gondii infection and risk of glioma,” reads the new paper.

“Further studies with larger case numbers are needed to confirm a potential etiologic role for T gondii
in glioma.”


Mirror – Health