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How moms give breast cancer to daughters and grandaughters

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 14th, 2012
Catholic Online (

A new study shows that mothers who eat a lot of fatty foods during pregnancy can increase their daughters' and even their granddaughters' risk of breast cancer. The study suggests that fatty foods can alter the genes of an unborn baby. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pregnant women who enjoy too much fatty food during pregnancy can increase breast cancer risk for their daughters and granddaughters later in life. 

Scientists at Georgetown University performed their study on rats, feeding the pregnant animals a fatty diet. Their offspring were then fed normal food for the next two generations. The females of the next two generations showed a significantly higher risk of developing breast tumors, despite eating normally. 

Researchers must now be demonstrate the same in humans, but they think, regardless of difference between humans and rats, the findings clearly show that an unborn baby's genes can be affected by the amount of fatty foods the mother consumes. 

Researchers believe the mechanism involves female sex hormones, which become elevated in women who consume fatty foods, specifically estrogen.  Women with high levels of lifetime exposure to estrogen are already at greater risk of developing breast cancer. Add a genetic proclivity and it becomes clear why the disease seems to run in families. 

It's believed that if a mother consumes a fatty diet, she can literally flip a genetic switch that makes cells more likely to become cancerous later in the unborn child's life, as well as in the lives of its offspring who will now inherit the same genes. 

It does not matter if the child consumes a healthy diet, the genes are already at elevated risk of mutation.

Subsequently, scientists recommend that expecting mothers avoid foods that have high fat content and that they do not eat extra food for the baby's sake. Healthy eating recommendations include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein and legumes. 

Regardless of the outcome of future studies, consumption of a fatty diet at anytime, especially during pregnancy, can do little to support personal health of both mother and child. Therefore, it remains sensible to follow a healthy diet anyway. 

The journal, Nature Communications, published the study in their current issue. 


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