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

Major study of genetics of breast cancer provides clues to mechanisms behind the disease

October 23, 2017
Seventy-two new genetic variants that contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer have been identified by a major international collaboration involving hundreds of researchers worldwide.

Big Data shows how cancer interacts with its surroundings

October 23, 2017
By combining data from sources that at first seemed to be incompatible, UC San Francisco researchers have identified a molecular signature in tissue adjacent to tumors in eight of the most common cancers that suggests they ...

Symptom burden may increase hospital length of stay, readmission risk in advanced cancer

October 23, 2017
Hospitalized patients with advanced cancer who report more intense and numerous physical and psychological symptoms appear to be at risk for longer hospital stays and unplanned hospital readmissions. The report from a Massachusetts ...

CAR-T immunotherapy may help blood cancer patients who don't respond to standard treatments

October 20, 2017
Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is one of the first centers nationwide to offer a new immunotherapy that targets certain blood cancers. Newly approved ...

Researchers pinpoint causes for spike in breast cancer genetic testing

October 20, 2017
A sharp rise in the number of women seeking BRCA genetic testing to evaluate their risk of developing breast cancer was driven by multiple factors, including celebrity endorsement, according to researchers at the University ...

Study shows how nerves drive prostate cancer

October 19, 2017
In a study in today's issue of Science, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, part of Montefiore Medicine, report that certain nerves sustain prostate cancer growth by triggering a switch that causes tumor vessels ...

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.