Fatty Acid Affects Risk Of Breast Cancer
September 18, 2012

Breast Cancer Risk Influenced By Early Diet And Metabolic Syndrome Factors

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Before you pick up a piece of food high in fatty acid, you might want to think twice. A new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) showed that the risk of breast cancer could be increased by certain diet and metabolic syndrome factors found earlier in life. In particular, the scientists looked at the effects of a particular form of fatty acid.

The findings, featured in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed how early-life diet could impact the various processes that manage normal breast development as well as the possibility of having breast cancer at an older age.

"It's long been assumed that circulating estrogens from the ovaries, which underlie normal female reproductive development, were crucial for the onset of breast growth and development," remarked senior study author Russ Hovey, a UC Davis associate professor of Animal Science, in a prepared statement.

In the study, the scientists examined mice that were given a diet supplemented with fatty acid called 10,12 conjugated linoleic acid; this acid is similar to a metabolic syndrome related to changes due to obesity. 10,12 is thought to affect the metabolic processes of animals. According to the UC Davis researchers, obesity can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. With the supplement, the mammary ducts of the mice grew even though they were deficient in estrogen.

The researchers believe that the study highlights how mammary tumors can be formed from certain aspects of the diet. They believe that estrogen did not play a role in the experiment, as the role of estrogen was blocked in the mice before they were given the supplements. The mice reacted differently to the dietary supplements and showed how there may be a different genetic factor, depending on the population that causes diet and metabolic changes to occur.

"Our findings, however, suggest that diet and shifts in body metabolism that parallel changes seen during obesity and Type 2 diabetes can also stimulate breast growth entirely independent of estrogen's effects," noted Hovey in the statement.

With the results of the study, the investigators can determine how human breasts develop prior to puberty and following menopause.

"The findings of this study are particularly important when we superimpose them on data showing that girls are experiencing breast development at earlier ages, coincident with a growing epidemic of childhood obesity," concluded Hovey in the statement.

The study was supported through funding from the Dairy Management Inc., the Department of Defense, and the UC Davis Cancer Center.

"The biology of conjugated linoleic acid fatty acids has stimulated much scientific and public interest over the last two decades," commented co-principal investigator Adam Lock, an assistant professor specializing in dairy cattle nutrition at Michigan State University. He went further, telling the Daily Democrat, “These recent findings will further our understanding of the biology of this specific CLA isomer and also further advance our understanding of the role of bioactive fatty acids in health maintenance and disease prevention.”