In Utero Exposure to Dietary Methyl Nutrients and Breast Cancer Risk in Offspring
Links are being drawn to complete mammary gland development of the mother during pregnancy and reduction in breast cancer risk in her daughters. Supplementing the mother's diet with lipotropic nutrients (methionine, choline, folate and vitamin B12) is thought to increase methyl metabolism which stimulates the full development of the mammary gland, thereby inducing an epigenetic imprint in the mammary gland of the fetus and decreasing its breast cancer risk. Investigators at North Dakota State University are researching this link with the overall objective of determining the extent to which supplementing diets with methyl nutrients during pregnancy reduces the offspring's overall breast cancer susceptibility.
The study looked at 45 pregnant rats and randomized them into two groups: one to receive a control and the other to be fed a methyl-supplemented diet. Once the pups were born, they were separated into three additional groups depending on the feeding regime of their mother. When the female pups reached a specific age, they were exposed to a chemical that induced breast cancer and researchers charted when the first tumor appeared and measured all tumor sizes and volumes. Results demonstrated that the offspring from the methyl-supplemented diet group showed a decrease in tumor incidence and growth when compared to the control group. Also, they had fewer tumors and fewer tumors that multiplied.
"The conclusions of this study suggest that we may be able to prevent the development of breast cancer in daughters of women at risk for breast cancer by supplementing the mother's diet during pregnancy," said Dr. Chung Park. "We look forward to exploring this study further to strengthen the implications of these initial findings."
Era of Hope Breast Cancer Conference, Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, August 2-5, 2011, Orlando, FL