Your Grandmother and Your Risk
Now here is a study that makes me want to either laugh or bang my head against the wall. Everyone worries about diet and a possible impact on cancer or recurrence risk. As I tell all my patients, there is no solid evidence about this and, to the contrary, a large study a couple of years ago suggested that a low-fat diet made no difference to the rate of breast cancer recurrence. As I understand the research and the data, IF (and this is a big "if") there is a time when diet makes a real difference, it is twice: when you were in utero (meaning, what your mother ate) and during the years of early adolescence. Those are the two periods of life when there is rapid cell growth and raging hormones. What we eat now, whether organic or not, red meat or not, vegetarian or vegan or not, likely plays a big role in our overall health, but has not been proven to make one whit of difference re breast cancer.
Now this from Georgetown's Lombardi Cancer Center. This study suggests that the amount of fat your maternal grandmother ate during her pregnancy may impact breast cancer risk for two generations. Talk about the sins of the fathers.... Take this with a grain of salt (sorry, could not resist):
Breast cancer risk tied to grandmother's diet
Washington, DC - Eating too much fat in pregnancy may be an indulgence that has a less-tha nbeneficial effect on generations to come, say researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Their unique study in rats shows that pregnant females that ate a high fat diet not only increased breast cancer risk in their female daughters but also in that daughter's offspring - the
"granddaughters." Details of the study will be presented at the AACR 101st Annual Meeting 2010.
The researchers say they don't know why this risk is passed on through two generations, but they believe it occurs through as-yet unknown "epigenetic" changes that result in an increase in terminal end buds in the breast tissue - an increase that apparently can then be passed on through generations. These buds are believed to be the structures where breast cancer can develop, and having more of these structures seems to increase breast cancer risk, says the study's lead
investigator, Sonia de Assis, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Leena Hilakivi-Clarke's laboratory at Lombardi. "That is our theory, but we really don't know how it is happening - just yet."
The researchers add that while the grandmother ate a diet that was 43 percent fat, she didn't eat more calories than a control population of rats, and both her daughters and granddaughters ate a normal chow.
The researchers also found that the risk appears to not only extend from mother to daughter and granddaughter, but also from mother to son to granddaughter. For example, the daughters of male and female rats born from mother rats that ate a lot of fat had an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer, but the risk was about 69 percent if the granddaughter's mother or father was born
from a rat that ate normally and the other parent came from a high-fat-consuming parent. By contrast, granddaughters of grandmother rats who ate a normal chow had a 50 percent chance of developing breast cancer.
They also studied a different control populations of rats given estradiol- a form of estrogen - and saw no increase in breast cancer risk in granddaughters. That suggests that the increased estrogen production related to eating more fat is not the source of the problem, they say.
"The implications from this study are that pregnant mothers need to eat a well balanced diet because they may be affecting the future health of their daughters and granddaughters," says de Assis.