A component in human milk may be a cancer fighter, according to laboratory experiments in Sweden.
Researchers testing the effects of human milk against cells in laboratory test tubes found that an ingredient called monomeric a-lac-tal-bumin, or MAL, caused cancer cells to die.A report on the study is being published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers at Lund University in Lund, Sweden, and the Karolin-ska Institute in Stockholm said that while studying effects of human milk on bacteria associated with human lung cancer, they found that the milk did more than kill the bacteria.
"We were surprised to discover that the milk killed the (lung cancer) cells," the authors report.
More experiments showed that the key component in the milk was MAL. The compound, the study found, triggers a process of apoptosis, or cell suicide, in the cancer cells but not in normal cells.
In one experiment, the scientists said, 98 percent of all human lung cancer cells were killed. Normal cells were unaffected.