Scientists have found that lactoferrin, a whey protein found in milk, could be an anticancer agent for breast cancer. Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein that has been reported to inhibit several other types of cancer.

According to a study that will be published in the January 2011 issue of the American Dairy Science Association’s Journal of Dairy Science, scientists in Portugal found that breast cancer cells treated with lactoferrin decreased the cancer cells’ viability by 47-54 percent and decreased the growth rates of the cancer cells by 40-64 percent.

“There is overwhelming evidence that biologically active food components are key environmental factors affecting the incidence of many chronic diseases,” says Lígia Raquel Rodrigues, author of the study. “However, because the full extent of such components in our diet isn’t known, nor is the understanding of their mechanisms of action, we undertook this study for a closer look.”

While additional studies will be needed to establish a clear role for lactoferrin as a potential tool in fighting breast cancer, the results from this study suggest that lactoferrin interferes with some of the most important steps involved in cancer growth.

Source: American Dairy Science Association