Sunday, August 03, 2008

Vaccines, Immune Function and Disease

Endotoxins and vaccines may, unexpectedly, trigger the immune system to prevent cancer. The evidence in this article is interesting, and compelling. Click on the title of the article to follow the link.

Many believers in alternative medicine, especially many of our patients, devoutly avoid vaccinations. The point of this article is not to argue the pros and cons of vaccinations but to review some fascinating data on immune function and disease.

Before scientists knew that endotoxins in cow manure dust stimulated the immune system and lowered risk of lung cancer, they already knew of another dust that was protective. Back in the 1970s, data showed that people working in cotton factories had a lower risk of lung cancer. Cotton dust, like cow manure, contains endotoxins.

Harvey Checkoway at the University of Washington has published a series of papers about this. He and his colleagues have followed the cancer rates of female cotton textile workers in Shanghai, China, for years. The more dust these women breathed, the lower their incidence of cancers. Note that I wrote the plural – cancers. The women had a lower risk for several cancer types including pancreatic, liver, lung and breast cancer.

Not all dust is protective. For example, workers in paper mills are at greater than average risk for cancer. This increase might be due to the dust or because of exposure to some chemicals used in the mill. Similar increased risk occurs in hard-metal workers.