This study, published online today in Nature Communications, shows for the first time that the risk of some “familial” breast cancers originate from biological alterations caused by maternal diet during pregnancy that not only affect the directly exposed fetus but also the fetal germ cells, transmitting the increased mammary cancer risk to subsequent generations.
This study also provides some hints about the biological mechanisms behind this multi-generational transmission of risk. The researchers found that maternal intake of high-fat diets and excess estrogens changes DNA methylation patterns in the offspring’s breast and make it more sensitive to carcinogens later in life. Importantly, these traits are inheritable.
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