Producers Resource Center

Pregnancy-Produced Hormone May Prevent Breast Cancer

Researchers at the Center for Immunology and Microbial Diseases and in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Albany Medical College, N.Y., report that the protein, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), may serve as a viable, well-tolerated agent for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.  AFP is a protein normally produced by the liver and yolk sac of a fetus. 

Hormones produced during pregnancy, such as estrogen, all induce AFP, which directly inhibits the growth of breast cancer, noted one of the researchers.  Medical experts explain that the body can produce a natural defense system against breast cancer.  They note this can be developed into a drug that can be used to protect women from breast cancer. 

Recent studies have shown that hormones released during pregnancy, such as estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin, reduce a women’s risk for breast cancer.   Nearly 700,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer this year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Breast cancer affects about 26 percent of female cancer victims.

Researchers’  results showed that treatment with estrogen plus progesterone, estrogen alone or human chorionic gonadotropin reduced the incidence of mammary cancers in rats.   The researchers noted that each of these treatments elevated the serum level of AFP and that AFP directly inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells growing in culture.  While none of these treatments prevented mammary tumors in 100 percent of the rats, it appears to delay mammary tumor formation and prevent breast cancer development in approximately 30 to 50 percent of the rats.

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