To-be mothers who binge on junk food may be putting even their grandchildren at risk of breast cancer, a new study has claimed. Researchers from the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Wasington from the Georgetown, fed some pregnant rats normally and gave others the same amount of calories but in a much fattier form. Despite the second and third generations not gorging on fatty food, they were up to 60% more likely to develop breast tumours than other rodents.
The researchers then tried to work out how something that happened in pregnancy can go on to affect health for generations to come. They showed that it wans’t due to the junk food diet raising levels of oestrogen, a hormone that fuels the growth of breast tumours. Instead, they believed it can be explained by a process called epigenetics, in which conditions in the womb cause subtle changes to the way genes work. These changes, different from mutations, can be passed down the line from mother to daughter, or from father to son, time and time again, In this case, the tiny changes may increase the number of potentially cancerous ‘buds’ in the breast.