Cell Stress and Chaperones

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 297–302 | Cite as

Lactic acid alleviates stress: good for female genital tract homeostasis, bad for protection against malignancy

  • Steven S. Witkin
Perspective and Reflection Article


Women are unique from all other mammals in that lactic acid is present at high levels in the vagina during their reproductive years. This dominance may have evolved in response to the unique human lifestyle and a need to optimally protect pregnant women and their fetuses from endogenous and exogenous insults. Lactic acid in the female genital tract inactivates potentially pathogenic bacteria and viruses, maximizes survival of vaginal epithelial cells, and inhibits inflammation that may be damaging to the developing fetus and maintenance of the pregnancy. In an analogous manner, lactic acid production facilitates survival of malignantly transformed cells, inhibits activation of immune cells, and prevents the release of pro-inflammatory mediators in response to tumor-specific antigens. Thus, the same stress-reducing properties of lactic acid that promote lower genital tract health facilitate malignant transformation and progression.


Autophagy Immune regulation Histone deacetylase Lactic acid Malignancy Pregnancy 


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Copyright information

© Cell Stress Society International 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyWeill Cornell MedicineNew YorkUSA

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