Beef produced in the United States is heavily contaminated with natural or synthetic sex hormones, which are associated with an increased risk of reproductive and childhood cancers, warns Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition.

“Increased levels of sex hormones are linked to the escalating incidence of reproductive cancers in the United States since 1975 – 60% for prostate, 59% for testis, and 10% for breast,” Dr. Epstein says.

The hormones in past and current use include the natural estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and the synthetic zeranol, trenbolone, and melengesterol.

When beef cattle enter feedlots, pellets of these hormones are implanted under the ear skin, a process that is repeated at the midpoint of their 100-day pre-slaughter fattening period, Dr. Epstein explains. These hormones increase carcass weight, adding over $80 in extra profit per animal.

Also, Dr. Epstein says, “Not surprisingly, but contrary to longstanding claims by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), residues of these hormones in meat are up to 20-fold higher than normal.”

“Still higher residues result from the not uncommon illegal practice of implantation directly into muscle. Furthermore, contrary to misleading assurances, meat is still not monitored for hormone residues,” Dr. Epstein emphasizes.

Nevertheless, he points out, the FDA and USDA maintain that hormone residues in meat are within “normal levels,” while waiving any requirements for residue testing.

Following a single ear implant in steers of Synovex-S, a combination of estrogen and progesterone, residues of these hormones in meat were found to be up to 20-fold higher than normal.

The amount of estradiol in two hamburgers eaten in one day by an 8-year-old boy could increase his total hormone levels by as much as 10%, particularly as young children have very low natural hormone levels.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Epstein says, the incidence of childhood cancer has increased by 38% since 1975.

These concerns are not new. As evidenced in a series of General Accountability Office investigations and Congressional hearings, FDA residue-tolerance programs and USDA inspections are in near total disarray, aggravated by brazen denials and cover-ups.

A January 1986 report, “Human Food Safety and the Regulation of Animal Drugs,” unanimously approved by the House Committee on Government Operations, concluded that “the FDA has consistently disregarded its responsibility – has repeatedly put what is perceives are interests of veterinarians and the livestock industry ahead of its legal obligation to protect consumers, thus jeopardizing the health and safety of consumers of meat, milk and poultry.”

On January 1, 1989, the European Community placed a ban on meat imports from animals treated with growth inducing hormones. This had a direct impact on the U.S. beef industry, which uses hormones in more than half of the cattle sent to market each year.

Twenty-years later, on May 6, 2009, the European Union and the United States settled their long- running dispute over hormone-treated beef. Under terms of the four-year deal the EU will be permitted to maintain its ban on hormone-fed beef. In return, the EU has agreed to increase the amount of hormone-free beef that can be imported from the U.S. without duty.

It is well recognized that American women have about a five-fold greater risk of breast cancer than women in countries that do not permit the sale of hormonal beef.

However, as recently confirmed by studies of cancer rates in Los Angeles County, the most highly populated, ethnically diverse county in the U.S., the low risk in Japanese women in Japan increases sharply in Japanese immigrants to the United States after one to two generations.

This, and a wide range of other studies in migrant populations, is evidence that avoidable causes of breast cancer include adoption of Western dietary habits, particularly the consumption of hormone- laced beef.

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; and a former President of the Rachel Carson Trust. His awards include the 1989 Right Livelihood Award and the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention. Dr. Epstein has authored 250 scientific articles and 15 books on cancer prevention, including the groundbreaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), and most recently Toxic Beauty (2009, Benbella Books: about carcinogens in cosmetics and personal care products.

Read Dr. Epstein’s blog on the Huffington Post at:

Samuel S. Epstein, MD
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition,
Chicago, Illinois
Tel: 312-996-2297