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Consuming a high fat diet during pregnancy could result in an increased risk of breast cancer in your great granddaughter, a new study from Georgetown University has found.

Previous research has shown that high fat diets are linked to excess inflammation--which can increase cancer risk.

The research, published online in Breast Cancer Research, revealed that feeding pregnant mice a diet high in fat resulted in genetic changes in three generations of female offspring, increasing their susceptibility to breast cancer.

"Since studying a link between what a mother eats during pregnancy and her daughter's breast cancer risk >40 years later is difficult, animal studies that are done using appropriate models are helpful. We know from other studies that our model can be used to discover connections between maternal exposures during pregnancy and daughter's breast cancer risk," the study’s senior author, Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, Ph.D., professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi, explained to ALN.

The pregnant mice were switched from normal diets to a diet high in fat from common corn oil in their second trimester. This is when the germ line that mediates genetic information from one generation to the next is formed.

Genetic screening showed numerous genetic changes in both the first (daughter) and third (great granddaughter) generations. These included changes in genes that increase breast cancer risk, increase resistance to cancer treatment, poor cancer prognosis, and impaired anti-cancer immunity.

Additionally, the third generation had three times as many of these genetic changes than the first generation.

"Pregnant women should eat a healthy, balanced diet. It is common for pregnant women to start consuming more fat in the diet when they enter 2nd trimester. If our findings obtained in mice are true for humans, pregnant women should maintain similar fat intake through pregnancy and obtain about 30% energy from fat," Hilakivi-Clarke cautioned.

"Our other research indicates that maternal dietary exposures not only affect daughter's breast cancer risk, but they also impair daughters survival from breast cancer."

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