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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Breastmilk v. cancer

ABC News reports that an Englishman, Tim Browne, is using breastmilk to fight his cancer. His daughter is nursing her baby boy and sets aside a couple of ounces of milk for her dad. As cited in the article, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's research indicate that breastmilk may prevent growth of cancer cells.

Researchers have identified a protein in human milk--human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumors (HAMLET)--that induces apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in which cells, responding to environmental signals, self-destruct. Apoptosis, a relatively new study in biology, is the natural mechanism the body uses to recycle material that is not needed for functioning. When apoptosis is initiated, the cell's genetic material becomes shredded so that the cell cannot replicate itself. With cancer cells, apoptosis is inhibited, allowing rapid growth of dysfunctional cells. Haynes says that the isolation of HAMLET as a trigger for apoptosis in cancer cells could give further weight to evidence linking breast milk to reduced incidences of some cancers.

Several other benefits of breastfeeding have been previously reported but if breastmilk can indeed help fight cancer, this will be a very welcome development in cancer research studies. However, the article also cites an ABC News medical contributor saying that "there's no research to say those same proteins in human breast milk will benefit this man."

A lot of other uses and home remedies using breastmilk are available on the internet -- from curing earaches to sore eyes (there's even a recipe to make soap out of breastmilk Note, however, that these remedies are not scientifically and medically studied. In fact, one of the breastfeeding counselors I know discourages the use of breastmilk for sore eyes. My favorite and most practical use for breastmilk comes from my mother-in-law's elderly mah-jong friends. My husband (and daughter) has a high/deep hairline -- and my mommy's friends suggested that I spread breastmilk on their heads to encourage hair growth... :D I've been doing this (only when Stan is asleep) and hopefully, there will be happy results :)

More and more health benefits are being discovered as breastmilk research intensifies. On the local front, I was recently asked to donate some breastmilk, my and Naima's urine samples for a study conducted in UP. I've requested for a summary/abstract once this study is completed. This is a very interesting development and hopefully, will yield positive and helpful findings 0n the benefits and uses of breastmilk, particularly in the Philippine setting.

2 comments:

Sparkle Chi said...

I know that breastmilk had a profound effect on the scar from my emergency c-section with number two. I spread breastmilk on half of the incision, and tea tree oil on the other half... guess which side won! Good thing it is below the bikini line!

Melodie said...

This is some amazing information Jenny. And very exciting too! Thank you so much! I'm gonna tweet this one for you.

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