Clue to breast milk's anticancer properties found?

May 17, 2012

"High levels of TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) protein in colostrum may explain breastfeeding?s ability of to protect against certain cancers. More >> "

Significantly higher levels of TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand protein were found in colostrum and breast milk than in serum.

The ability of breast milk to deliver tumor resistance may be associated with the level of TRAIL in it-a level not found in infant formula.

High levels of cancer-fighting tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) protein in human milk and colostrum may explain breastfeeding’s ability of to protect against certain childhood cancers, according to an Italian study.

Research suggests that breastfeeding helps prevent some cancers, such as lymphoblastic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and neuroblastoma, that are common in children, but the reason has remained elusive. This study, published online April 23 in the Journal of Human Lactation, included 55 mother and infant pairs. The mothers were healthy, with no signs of eclampsia, infection, or fever, and had delivered healthy newborns at term.

Colostrum samples were taken from the women 24 to 48 hours after vaginal delivery or 72 to 120 hours after cesarean. Levels of soluble human TRAIL were measured in human colostrum (day 2 after delivery), in breast milk (day 5 after delivery), in human serum, and in 7 types of ready-to-feed infant formulas.

TRAIL levels in colostrum and breast milk were 400 and 100 times higher, respectively, than that found in blood. The median TRAIL value in the colostrum was 19.87 ng/mL, and no significant difference was noted between those mothers who delivered vaginally and those who delivered surgically. The median TRAIL value in breast milk was 9.57 ng/mL, and the median value in serum was between 64 and 67 pg/mL. No TRAIL was found in the infant formulas.

“Our hypothesis is that high concentrations of soluble TRAIL present in human colostrum and breast milk might play a key role in mediating the anticancer activity of human milk,” the authors conclude.

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