Breast cancer risk linked to early-life diet and metabolic syndrome

September 17, 2012

Striking new evidence suggesting that diet and related factors early in life can boost the risk for breast cancer—totally independent of the body's production of the hormone estrogen—has been uncovered by a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The findings provide new insights into the processes that regulate normal breast development, which can impact the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. The study will be published Sept. 17 in the early edition of the .

"It's long been assumed that circulating estrogens from the ovaries, which underlie normal female , were crucial for the onset of breast growth and development," said Russ Hovey, a UC Davis associate professor of animal science and senior author on the study.

"Our findings, however, suggest that diet and shifts in body metabolism that parallel changes seen during obesity and Type 2 diabetes can also stimulate breast growth entirely independent of estrogen's effects," he said.

The studies with mice used a diet supplemented with a form of the fatty acid known as 10, 12 conjugated linoleic acid or 10, 12 CLA, which mimics specific aspects of a broader metabolic syndrome.

In humans, this syndrome is linked to a broad array of changes associated with obesity that can increase the risk of and cardiovascular disease.

The 10, 12 CLA was added to the diet of the test group of mice because it is known to disrupt normal metabolic processes. In this study, the supplement stimulated the mammary ducts to grow, despite the fact that the mice lacked estrogen.

The researchers demonstrated that the diet-induced breast development also increased the formation of in some of the mice.

They ruled out a role for estrogen as the possible cause for how diet increased growth of the breast tissues by giving the supplement to male mice and to in which the function of estrogen was blocked.

The research team also discovered that various mouse strains responded differently to the dietary supplement despite similar metabolic changes, suggesting that there may be a genetic component for how diet and related metabolic changes affect risk in different populations, Hovey said.

He noted that results from the study would likely have significant implications for better understanding human breast development before puberty and after menopause, when estrogens are less present.

"The findings of this study are particularly important when we superimpose them on data showing that girls are experiencing at earlier ages, coincident with a growing epidemic of childhood obesity," Hovey said.

Explore further: Social isolation, stress-induced obesity increases breast cancer risk in mice

Related Stories

Social isolation, stress-induced obesity increases breast cancer risk in mice

April 4, 2011
Stress from social isolation, combined with a high-fat diet, increases levels of a brain neurotransmitter – neuropeptide Y, or NPY – in mice that then promotes obesity, insulin resistance, and breast cancer risk, ...

Team identifies new breast cancer tumor suppressor and how it works

June 27, 2011
Researchers have identified a protein long known to regulate gene expression as a potent suppressor of breast cancer growth. Their study, in the journal Oncogene, is the first to demonstrate how this protein, known as Runx3, ...

Elevated hormone levels add up to increased breast cancer risk

October 21, 2011
Post-menopausal women with high levels of hormones such as estrogen or testosterone are known to have a higher risk of breast cancer. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Breast Cancer Research looked ...

Obesity raises breast cancer survivors' risk of dying of the cancer

June 4, 2011
Women with a healthy body weight before and after diagnosis of breast cancer are more likely to survive the disease long term, a new study finds.

Recommended for you

Vitamin C may encourage blood cancer stem cells to die

August 17, 2017
Vitamin C may "tell" faulty stem cells in the bone marrow to mature and die normally, instead of multiplying to cause blood cancers. This is the finding of a study led by researchers from Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone ...

Outdoor light at night linked with increased breast cancer risk in women

August 17, 2017
Women who live in areas with higher levels of outdoor light at night may be at higher risk for breast cancer than those living in areas with lower levels, according to a large long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Scientists develop novel immunotherapy technology for prostate cancer

August 17, 2017
A study led by scientists at The Wistar Institute describes a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for the treatment of cancer based on the use of synthetic DNA to directly encode protective antibodies against a cancer specific ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.