Breast cancer risks acquired in pregnancy may pass to next three generations
Chemicals or foods that raise estrogen levels during pregnancy may increase cancer risk in daughters, granddaughters, and even great-granddaughters, according to scientists from Virginia Tech and Georgetown University.
Pregnant rats on a diet supplemented with synthetic estrogen or with fat, which increases estrogen levels, produce ensuing generations of daughters that appear to be healthy, but harbor a greater than normal risk for mammary cancer, the researchers report in today's Nature Communications.
Although the findings have not yet been validated in humans, the study shows that environmental damage may be passed from one generation to the next not through genetic mutations, but through "epigenetic" alterations that influence how genomic information is decoded.
The research also raises hope that people who may be especially sensitive to carcinogens can be identified and novel prevention strategies can be employed before cancer strikes.
"We have shown for the first time that altered DNA methylations modulated by specific diet in normal development are heritable and transgenerational," said Yue "Joseph" Wang, the Grant A. Dove Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington. "We also identified key methylation alteration sites that may be involved or responsible for increased breast cancer risk, which may serve as novel biomarkers for scientists to develop novel and targeted prevention strategies."
The National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 226,000 women and more than 2,000 men will develop breast cancer in 2012, and nearly 40,000 people will die of the disease.
Two thirds of breast cancers that occur in families have no known genetic cause, according to Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, a professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. The study shows what may be underlying the cancer are not genetic mutations, but inherited effects of maternal intake of high-fat diets and exposure to excess estrogen during pregnancy.
"It is becoming clear that the process of epigenetic signaling—which genes are expressed and which genes are silenced—is being affected by a mother's hormonal environment during pregnancy," said Hilakivi-Clarke, who has studied the effects of maternal diet on offspring in animals and humans for more than 20 years. "The early studies indicate in a normal pregnancy a woman may have more than 20 different estrogen levels, and the highest and the lowest all result in a healthy baby. The challenge has been to understand how something in fetal development can affect breast cancer risk more than 50 years later."
The study was led by Sonia de Assis, a postdoctoral researcher in Hilakivi-Clarke's laboratory at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Virginia Tech researchers developed mathematical models and machine-learning techniques to analyze the changes in DNA methylation status in the descending daughters to understand how increased cancer risk is transmitted without genetic mutation.
DNA methylation is a key process in normal development, allowing cells with the same genome to perform different functions by adding chemical groups to DNA to turn some genes on and some genes off.
Wang's group found that the descendants with increased risk had several hundred common DNA regions that were methylated differently than in a control group, providing statistically convincing evidence that breast cancer risk can be transmitted via epigenetic means.
"Ultimately, it may be possible to undo or prevent this harmful methylation and decrease the risk of breast cancer." Wang said. "A next step will be to study the timing of the intervention and the impacts of the methylation as it occurs in the early, middle or end of the pregnancy. The promising news is pharmacologic or other interventions may be able to reverse the harmful exposure."
Journal reference: Nature Communications
Provided by Virginia Tech
- Breast cancer risk tied to grandmother's diet Apr 19, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Evidence now suggests eating soy foods in puberty protects against breast cancer Apr 09, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Vitamin D can decrease -- or increase -- breast cancer development and insulin resistance Apr 04, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- DNA methylation level is marker of breast cancer risk May 11, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Study links breast cancer resistance with timing of soy consumption Apr 02, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
The use of a smartphone application significantly improves patients' preparation for a colonoscopy, according to new research presented today at Digestive Disease Week (DDW). The preparation process, which begins days in ...
Cancer 8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) explores new methods for managing digestive health through diet and lifestyle.
Cancer 8 hours ago | not rated yet | 1
A ground-breaking advance in colonoscopy technology signals the future of colorectal care, according to research presented today at Digestive Disease Week(DDW). Additional research focuses on optimizing the minimal withdrawal ...
Cancer 23 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0
(HealthDay)—Concurrent use of two immune checkpoint antibodies—ipilimumab and nivolumab—may be effective for the treatment of advanced melanoma, according to a proof-of-principal study presented in ...
Cancer May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—The risks of metastasis and death associated with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) are low, but significant, and risk factors for poor outcome include tumor diameter, invasion beyond ...
Cancer May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0 |
The hunt for an HIV vaccine has gobbled up $8 billion in the past decade, and the failure of the most recent efficacy trial has delivered yet another setback to 26 years of efforts.
51 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Regular consumption of coffee is associated with a reduced risk of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an autoimmune liver disease, Mayo Clinic research shows. The findings were being presented at the Digestive Disease ...
8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Patients with treatment-resistant major depression saw dramatic improvement in their illness after treatment with ketamine, an anesthetic, according to the largest ketamine clinical trial to-date led by researchers from the ...
8 hours ago | 4.5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
An increasing number of U.S. children are experiencing gastrointestinal issues that require interventions to resolve, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW).
23 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
There are significant cost and risk factors associated with two procedures commonly used to diagnose or treat gastrointestinal problems, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW).
8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0