Kim Mulvihill, M.D. Reporting


This story ran, in an abbreviated format, on the 11 p.m. news of the San Francisco CBS affialiate's local news on Friday 11 May 2007. The text below is originally from their web site, (The article from which this was abstracted was removed from their web site Monday 14 May 2007).


Breast Milk as a Cancer Treatment?

(CBS 5) SAN JOSE Making smoothies is routine for Howard Cohen. His concoctions contain yogurt, fruit and milk. But not any kind of milk. Cohen uses breast milk.

After getting diagnosed with prostate cancer, Cohen discovered Swedish research on the therapeutic potential of breast milk.

A protein in the milk killed cancer cells in petri dishes and reduced tumor growth in lab animals. He became interested in whether this milk would help him. The Silicon Valley consultant first got his supply from a breastfeeding friend. Now he picks up breast milk at a milk bank in San Jose. To do so, he needed a doctor's prescription.

Pauline Sakamoto is with Mother's Milk Bank in San Jose. Without a doubt, she says, "we're noticing an increase in the number of patients who are adults and children who have a variety of types of cancer who are using human milk."

So far - Mother's Milk Bank has supplied sixty cancer patients with the product.

Leading specialists say while the Swedish research is interesting, they caution there's no scientific proof breast milk can help cancer patients.

Dr. David Newberg, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, put is this way: "I do think that it's premature for adults to be drinking breast milk. It hasn't been fully tested yet and we like to be very careful not to use things in humans that we don't understand."

Dr. Pamela Berens with the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine agrees.

She also worries adults using donor milk will deplete the already limited supply, commenting that "right now we don't have enough breast milk for our donor milk banks for the premature infants who we have such wonderful data about the benefits."

Proven benefits or not, Cohen is such a believer when his own cancer doctor wouldn't give him a prescription, he found a doctor who would.

Now, he says he's cancer free and plans to stay that way.

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