My partner and co-rat owner, who is also a cancer research scientist, has written this piece. We think people ought to know about this.
tl;dr: although red bush contains flavenoids which are good at reducing mammary tumours, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that drinking them in red bush helps. More scary is that red bush also contains estrogen, which can cause an increased risk of mammary tumours if it gets into your blood. It could be bad for your rats.
"So, three of our rats spontaneously developed mammary tumours *on the same day* yesterday. In two cases, the rats are over two years old and we might have put it down to age, but one is much younger and so we looked for a recent change that might be involved in this sudden change in their health. As descriptions are generally positive, we had recently given them a bottle of diluted red bush tea in addition to two bottles of water, which they had been drinking for a couple of weeks.
Suspicious, we looked into the tea further, and discovered that it contains analogues of estrogen, which can drive the growth and development of certain kinds of mammary tumour.
Lots of studies describe the efficacy of red bush tea as a health supplement, good for cardiovascular health and preventative against a range of cancers. For mammary cancers specifically, this is always phrased as "rooibos is rich in flavenoids, which are shown to help prevent breast cancer". When looking for studies that specifically treated rats with red bush and found a reduction in breast cancer, we were unable to find any. There were specific studies that showed it was good for preventing other forms of cancer, but none on this, one of the most common forms of cancer. I am somewhat concerned that this is a publication bias wherein positive and expected results are more likely to be submitted to journals for publication. The upshot of this is that if scientists found that red bush made mammary tumours more likely in rats, they'd be a lot less likely to publish the results.
Though our observations here are by no means a proper scientific survey, we thought it was striking enough to be worth giving a quick warning to the fancy rat community."
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