London: Chemicals or foods that raise estrogen levels during pregnancy may increase cancer risk in daughters, granddaughters, and even great-granddaughters, a new study has claimed.Pregnant rats on a diet supplemented with synthetic estrogen or with fat, which increases estrogen levels, produce ensuing generations of daughters that appear to be healthy, but harbour a greater than normal risk for mammary cancer.Although the findings by scientists from Virginia Tech and Georgetown University have not yet been validated in humans, the study shows that environmental damage may be passed from one generation to the next not through genetic mutations, but through “epigenetic” alterations that influence how genomic information is decoded.The research also raises hope that people who may be especially sensitive to carcinogens can be identified and novel prevention strategies can be employed before cancer strikes.“We have shown for the first time that altered DNA methylations modulated by specific diet in normal development are heritable and transgenerational,” Yue “Joseph” Wang said.
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