What a mother-to-be eats may affect her daughter's risk of breast cancer, new studies in rats indicate.
Scientists from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, fed pregnant rats diets high in a type of fat found in corn oil, n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid. When the baby rats were born, the researchers fed them the standard lab rat chow.
Compared with female offspring of rats that ate low-fat diets, the young rats entered puberty earlier, and their mammary glands had more of the types of cells that can turn cancerous later in life.
And, the researchers noticed, the offspring of rats fed a high-fat diet were more likely to form breast tumors when exposed to a cancer-causing chemical.
The study appears in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The new results fit with previous observations that conditions before birth can affect breast cancer risk.
For example, non-identical twins have a higher risk of breast cancer than other babies, an observation that has been linked to higher estrogen levels in the uterus.
Estrogen has been linked to the development of breast cancer.
And because a high-fat diet is known to increase estrogen levels, the Georgetown researchers proposed that the rat's high-fat diet was making the female rats more susceptible to developing breast tumors.
If the same is true for people, the scientists wrote, "The prevention of some breast cancers may have to begin by modifying the dietary intake of some fats in pregnant women."
Pub Date: 8/26/97