The anticarcinogenic potential of milk fat

Ann Agric Environ Med. 2020 Dec 22;27(4):512-518. doi: 10.26444/aaem/116095. Epub 2020 Feb 25.


Introduction and objective: The anticarcinogenic potential of milk fat can be attributed to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulatory properties as well as the presence of compounds with antimutagenic effects. In view of the high incidence of cancer the aim of this article was to review the literature concerning the biological activity of milk fat components.

Brief description of the state of knowledge: Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), coenzyme Q10, phospholipids, β-carotene, and vitamins A, D and E play an important role in the pro-oxidant/antioxidant homeostasis. The anti-inflammatory properties of milk fat can be attributed to the presence of phospholipids and short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids. Conjugated linoleic acid has immunostimulatory properties, and it influences the proliferation and activity of lymphocytes and macrophages. Saturated (C10 and C12) and unsaturated (C18) fatty acids, as well as sphingolipids, exert bactericidal effects in the gastrointestinal tract. Vaccenic acid, CLA and sphingomyelin possess antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic properties. Butyric acid promotes the apoptosis of cancer cells in the liver, and delivers positive effects in the treatment of breast and colorectal cancer. Alkylglycerols activate macrophages, stimulate phagocytosis and, most importantly, the apoptosis of cancer cells.

Conclusions: The health benefits of milk fat are not fully exploited due to its low consumption. Therefore, only some epidemiological studies have shown a negative correlation between the consumption of high-fat dairy products and the incidence of cancer. More research is needed involving human clinical trials to allow a better understanding of the anticancer biochemistry related with milk fat compounds.

Keywords: antioxidant properties; immunostimulatory and anticancerogenic potential; milk fat.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology*
  • Fats
  • Humans
  • Milk / chemistry*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fats