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If fathers are overweight at conception, the risk of breast cancer increases for daughters
Breast cancer is a dangerous disease that threatens the lives of many women around the world. For this reason, doctors are always trying to find new ways to treat cancer more effectively. There is also intensive research into the causes of the disease. Scientists have now found that daughters of overweight fathers are more likely to develop breast cancer.
Investigators at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center found that daughters from a father who is overweight at conception are more likely to develop breast cancer later in life. The experts published the results of their study in the journal "Nature".
Obesity changes the genes in fathers' sperm
The study on mice showed that obesity is able to change the genes in fathers' sperm, the experts say. This process then leads to the daughters of the affected person being delayed in the development of the breast tissue. Doctors later warn that this can lead to cancer.
Obese men experience significant epigenetic changes in sperm
Our study was of course carried out on mice, but the results also support the latest findings in humans, the scientists explain. These showed that overweight men experience significant epigenetic changes in their sperm, explains author Sonia de Assis. The study was the first animal study that looked at a link between paternal obesity and breast cancer in daughters. The effects of obesity are diverse; another study, for example, previously found that obesity affects memory.
Obesity seems to change our so-called microRNA signature
Obese male mice and normal-weight female mice produce female offspring who are increasingly overweight at birth. This leads to delayed breast tissue development in these offspring and then to increased rates of breast cancer, the scientists say. Obesity appears to change the so-called microRNA (miRNA) signature (epigenetic regulators of gene expression), both in the sperm of the father and in the breast tissue of the daughter, the authors explain.
miRNAs cause changes in body weight
Genes can be switched on or off using epigenetic controls. The experts say that external or environmental factors, such as a person's lifestyle, are passed on to the offspring. Gene expression is the process by which certain genes are activated to produce a required protein. So-called miRNAs can apparently transmit epigenetic information from obese fathers to their daughters. As a result, these miRNAs can cause changes in body weight that are linked to the development of cancer, the doctors add.
Epigenetic changes in sperm affect the cancer risk of the next generation
The study provides evidence that the body weight of the father at the time of conception in animals affects the weight of the daughter at birth and in childhood, explains Sonia de Assis of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Our animal study suggests that epigenetic changes in sperm can have consequences for the next generation of cancer risk, adds de Assis.
New studies are designed to clarify the effects on humans
New studies must now clarify whether the same connection exists in humans. Until this question is fully resolved, we should all follow good advice, regardless of whether women or men: Eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy body weight. As a result, not only do you have a direct benefit, but you also give your offspring the best chance of growing up healthy and happy later, the experts explain. (as)