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Study: Diets high in fat linked to breast cancer in female offspring

Researchers have found that fatty diets in mothers are linked to increased risk of breast cancer in female offspring. According to a Georgetown University report, fatty diets during pregnancy directly impact the fetus and the fetal germ cells, increasing the risk of breast cancer in multiple generations of female offspring.

“We know that maternal diet can have long lasting effects on an offspring’s health, but this study demonstrates, for the first time, that excess estrogens and a high-fat diet can affect multiple generations of a rat’s offspring, resulting in an increase in breast cancer not only in their daughters, but granddaughters and great granddaughters,” said senior investigator Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, a professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a statement.

In addition to fatty diets, the researchers also discovered that the intake of excess estrogens leads to mutations in the breast tissue that make it more susceptible to cancer later in life for both the mother and her female offspring.

“This study could translate into important health implications,” said the study’s lead investigator, Georgetown Lombardi post-doctoral researcher Sonia de Assis, in a statement. “Fatty foods are endemic in our society, and significant levels of substances that have hormonal activity similar to estrogens, called endocrine disrupting chemicals, have been found in food and drinking water.”

The study participants were made up of pregnant rats and their offspring. Researchers gave one group of participants a high-fat diet and the other group a diet with excess estrogen. The researchers compared both groups to groups that were not given high-fat diets or excess estrogen.

The researchers found that the mothers who were given fatty diets prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy, passed an increased breast cancer risk to their granddaughters. They also found that the group given the excess estrogen, had a 50 percent higher incidence of breast tumors in multiple generations of their female offspring.

The results of the study were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.