Mother's prenatal and lactational diet may protect daughters from breast cancer

Anaheim, Calif. Mothers who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and while nursing, and who continue to feed their babies such a diet after weaning, may reduce their daughters' risk of developing breast cancer later in life dramatically, according to research presented here today at the 96th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Either maternal or post-weaning dietary consumption of this type of fat that is, taking in omega-3 fatty acids through food or supplements at any point in life from conception to at least puberty also could reduce the incidence rate for breast cancer in female offspring significantly.

Conversely, mothers' consumption of omega-6 fats commonly found in Western diets could increase their daughters' risk of breast cancer.

"Diet matters, Mom," said W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Division of Functional Foods at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. "Inadvertently, we may be setting up our daughters to develop breast cancer 50 years from now."

Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human health; however, particularly in the Western hemisphere, omega-6 fatty acids far exceed omega-3 fatty acids in the typical diet. Meat, eggs, poultry, cereals, breads, baked goods, most vegetable oils, and margarine are among dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids occur most commonly in fish especially cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel as well as in canola and flaxseed oils, soybeans and nuts.

Hardman based her hypothesis on existing research showing that maternal diets containing high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids increase maternal estrogen levels; increased maternal estrogen, in turn, has been linked to an increased incidence of breast cancer among female offspring.

Meanwhile, many foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are known to block the ef

Contact: Elizabeth Tait
American Association for Cancer Research

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