Breast milk may help early detection of cancer


Protein markers in breast milk can help detect breast cancer at an early stage and even predict if a woman is at risk of the deadly disease, a new study has found. Objective detection of breast cancer in young women in the early stages is challenging as mammography and imaging techniques are less effective because young women have dense breast tissue and there is a possible relationship between pregnancy and BC risk, researchers said.

One of the potential options for detection of BC is biochemical monitoring of protein markers in different types of bodily fluids such as serum, nipple aspirate fluid and ductal lavage fluid, tear, urine, saliva and breast milk.

Researchers, including those from University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US, investigated biochemical signatures of breast cancer that are detectable in breastmilk.

They compared breastmilk samples from women with breast cancer, women without breast cancer and women who were later diagnosed with breast cancer.

The team then identified alterations in protein expression in breastmilk when a woman has – or will soon develop – breast cancer which might be due to cancer risk or development. Breast milk provides access to breast tissue in the form of exfoliated epithelial cells that are the origins of the most types of breast cancers, researchers said. Analysis of breast milk is a non-invasive method that could be used for cancer diagnosis.

After further validation, the method could offer a new, non-invasive approach to breast cancer screening for women in their childbearing years.