A new study has revealed that eating a high-fat diet during pregnancy can increase the risk of breast cancer for generations.
A study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research found that feeding pregnant mice a diet containing a high level of fat resulted in the next three generations of offspring having an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Senior author Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, professor of oncology at the Georgetown University, said: “It is believed that environmental and life-style factors, such as diet, plays a critical role in increasing human breast cancer risk, and so we use animal models to reveal the biological mechanisms responsible for the increase in risk in women and their female progeny.”
During the study, researchers found that genetic changes were found in the offspring of mice that ate high-fat diets while pregnant. These changes included genes linked to cancer treatment resistance and breast cancer risk.
The mice in the study ate the same number of calories and weighed the same, but the experimental mice got 40 per cent of their energy through fat, while the control group received only 18 per cent through fat. It is believed that the human diet consists of 33 per cent fat, much closer to the amount received by the experimental group.
“Studies have shown that pregnant women consume more fat than non-pregnant women, and the increase takes place between the first and second trimester,” Hilakivi-Clarke said.
“Of the 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2012, 90 per cent have no known causes,” she said, adding “Putting these facts, and our finding, together really does give food for thought.”