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Daughters Of Obese Fathers Are More At Risk Of Developing Breast Cancer, Study Reveals

First Posted: Jun 28, 2016 06:10 AM EDT
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A new study has revealed that the father's weight can be a factor in the child's risk of developing breast cancer. Being obese alters the sperm's gene expression, which can increase the risk of breast cancer for their daughters.

Breast cancer, is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, next to skin cancer. This year, there are about 246, 660 new cases expected to be diagnosed. According to Medical News Today, certain changes to the genes can affect a woman's breast cancer risk and about 5 to 10 percent of the changes are inherited.

The Telegraph reported that past studies have revealed that a woman's diet and weight can be passed to offspring, and some studies showed that maternal obesity can change genes that could increase a child's risk of developing breast cancer.  However, de Assis and her colleagues explained that a few studies have analyzed how a father's weight may contribute to the risk for breast cancer in future generations.

Scientists at Georgetown University in Washington DC discovered that male mice that mated with normal weight females produced female pups that had a great chance of having breast cancer than those pups from non-obese fathers. The researchers also discovered evidence that obesity can change the miRNA signature, or epigenetic regulators of gene expression, both in the sperm of father mouse and the breast tissue of the daughter mouse. This suggests that miRNAs can transfer epigenetic information from obese fathers to their daughters.

Lead investigator Sonia de Assis, Ph.D. assistant professor in the department of oncology at Georgetown, said: "Of course our study was done in mice, but it recapitulates recent findings in humans which show that obese men have significant epigenetic alterations in their sperm compared to lean men.

"Our animal study suggests that those epigenetic alterations in sperm may have consequences for next generation cancer risk," she continued.

De Assis also said that this study gives evidence that, in animals, a father's body weight at the time of conception can affect both their daughter's body weight both at birth and in childhood as well as their risk of breast cancer later in life.

"Of course our study was done in mice, but it recapitulates recent findings in humans which show that obese men have significant epigenetic alterations in their sperm compared to lean men. Our animal study suggests that those epigenetic alterations in sperm may have consequences for next generation cancer risk," she added.

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