Mom's diet may up daughter's cancer risk

Sept. 12, 2012 at 1:06 AM

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 12 (UPI) -- A diet that raises estrogen levels during pregnancy may raise breast cancer risk in daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters, U.S. researchers say.

Yue "Joseph" Wang of the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington and colleagues at Georgetown University said 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 risk for mammary cancer.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, said 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 via genetic mutations, but through "epigenetic" alterations that influence how genomic information is decoded.

"We have shown for the first time that altered DNA methylations modulated by specific diet in normal development are heritable and transgenerational," Wang said in a statement.

Virginia Tech researchers developed mathematical models and machine-learning techniques to analyze the changes in DNA methylation -- 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 -- status in the descending daughters to understand how increased cancer risk is transmitted without genetic mutation.

"Ultimately, it might be possible to undo or prevent this harmful methylation and decrease the risk of breast cancer," Wang said.

Related UPI Stories
Latest Headlines
Trending Stories
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy drops bid for speaker
WikiLeaks offering $50K for video of Afghan hospital bombing
Murdoch sorry for implying Obama's not a 'real black president'
Reid sues exercise companies over eye injury
Lumber Liquidators to pay $10M in DOJ settlement