sericin is a silk protein woven from silkworm cocoons (bombyx mori). in animal model, sericin has been reported to have anti-tumoral action against colon cancer. the mechanisms underlying the activity of sericin against cancer cells are not fully understood. the present study investigated the effects of sericin on human colorectal cancer sw480 cells compared to normal colonic mucosal fhc cells. since the size of the sericin protein may be important for its activity, two ranges of molecular weight were tested. sericin was found to decrease sw480 and fhc cell viability. the small sericin had higher anti-proliferative effects than that of the large sericin in both cell types. increased apoptosis of sw480 cells is associated with increased caspase-3 activity and decreased bcl-2 expression. the anti-proliferative effect of sericin was accompanied by cell cycle arrest at the s phase. thus, sericin reduced sw480 cell viability by inducing cell apoptosis via caspase-3 activation and down-regulation of bcl-2 expression. the present study provides scientific data that support the protective effect of silk sericin against cancer cells of the colon and suggests that this protein may have significant health benefits and could potentially be developed as a dietary supplement for colon cancer prevention.