New findings show that eating a high-fat diet beginning at puberty speeds up the development of breast cancer and may actually increase the risk of cancer similar to a type often found in younger adult women, the so-called basal-like tumors.
Utilizing a preclinical model, the findings indicate that before any tumors appear, there are changes in the breast that include increased cell growth and alterations in immune cells. These changes persist into adulthood and can lead to the rapid development of precancerous lesions and ultimately breast cancer. In addition to the accelerated breast cancer development, this type of diet produces a distinct gene signature in the tumors consistent with a subset of breast cancers known as basal-like that can carry a worse prognosis.
“This is very significant because even though the cancers arise from random mutations, the gene signature indicating a basal-like breast cancer shows the overarching and potent influence this type of diet has in the breast,” said Sandra Haslam, physiology professor in MSU’s College of Human Medicine and one of the lead investigators of the project. Cancers of this type are more aggressive in nature and typically occur in younger women. This highlights the significance of our work toward efforts against the disease.”
My Take: While we are early in understanding the risk factors for various subtypes of breast cancer (after all, we have only recently characterized breast cancer into molecular subtypes such as luminal A, luminal B, HER2-enriched, and ER/PR/HER-2 negative), it is impressive how rapidly we are gaining insight into some causes of breast cancer. For those of us with children or grandchildren, it is probably wise to have them avoid excessive exposure to dietary fat, no matter what their age. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.
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Reference: Michigan State University (2013, November 26). High-fat diet during puberty speeds up breast cancer development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131126123935.htm;
- Yong Zhao, Ying Siow Tan, Mark D Aupperlee, Ingeborg M Langohr, Erin L Kirk, Melissa A Troester, Richard C Schwartz, Sandra Z Haslam. Pubertal high fat diet: effects on mammary cancer development. Breast Cancer Research, 2013; 15 (5): R100 DOI: 10.1186/bcr3561.