Whitesburg KY

The mysterious rise in meat allergies



DEAR DR. ROACH: I heard that there is a sudden surge in people coming down with severe meat allergies. Is there any information as to why, after years of eating red meat, you suddenly can become extremely allergic? — E.V.

ANSWER: Meat allergies are uncommon; however, there has been a recent surge of meat allergies due to tick bites. I have read that over 5,000 cases of meat allergy have been estimated in the United States, mostly in the Southeast. The allergy is most often caused by a bite of the Lone Star tick, which carries the carbohydrate alpha-gal. If introduced into the bloodstream, it can cause a reaction from eating meat, especially beef, pork and lamb. Interestingly, it is much more likely in people with blood types A and O.

It isn’t yet clear if the allergy will be temporary or long-lasting, but it can be very severe, and people who develop this allergy should avoid meat and carry an epinephrine device in case of exposure.


DEAR DR. ROACH: A few days ago, I heard a report on breast cancer recurrence. I had cancer in my left breast in 1995, and on my right side in 2003. What are your thoughts on the subject? There is no history of breast cancer in my family. — P.M.

ANSWER: Breast cancer sometimes runs in families, but 70 percent to 80 percent of women with breast cancer have no family history. Once a woman has had breast cancer, she is at higher risk for developing a second breast cancer. Survivors of breast cancer should get regular physical exams and mammograms.

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently published a study promising that in the near future, a new type of blood test may be able to identify DNA from breast cancer cells and find recurrence much earlier than current methods. If confirmed, this would be a big relief to the many women (and a few men) with breast cancer at risk for recurrence.


DEAR DR. ROACH: Would you please address stem-cell treatment for a torn rotator cuff? My son is facing his second surgery for this problem and is considering stem-cell treatment instead. He had such terrible pain from surgery the first time. — L.P.

ANSWER: A torn rotator cuff is a common sports injury in athletes. Complete tears usually are repaired surgically. A new surgical technique is to inject the body’s own stem cells (obtained from the bone marrow) to help promote healing. It is too new of a technique for me to be able to compare it with standard surgical therapy, but the preliminary studies are very promising.

I often have said that only an individual’s surgeon can decide the right surgical procedure, based on far more information than we could include in this column. It’s really true that you never trust anyone quite the way you trust your surgeon. There are surgeons who are using the stem-cell technique, and it would be reasonable to get a consultation with one of them.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med. cornell.edu. To view and order health pamphlets, visit www.rbmamall.com, or write to Good Health, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.

©2016 North America Synd.

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