Women who eat a fatty diet during pregnancy may increase the risk of their daughters getting breast cancer, according to a U.S. study, Sky News reported Tuesday.

And research suggests pregnant women who dine on junk food could unwittingly be risking the future health of not only their children but also their grand-daughters.

The study, conducted on rats, provides further evidence that environmental factors can cause inheritable genetic changes.

"The implications from this study are that pregnant mothers need to eat a well-balanced diet because they may be affecting the future health of their daughters and granddaughters," said lead researcher Dr Sonia de Assis, who presented the findings at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Washington DC.

The researchers, from Georgetown University in Washington DC, fed a group of mother rats either a high-fat or normal diet.

They found that not only did a high-fat diet increase the risk of daughters having breast cancer, but also granddaughters.

The risk was not only passed on by daughters but also sons.

Daughters of male and female rats who both had fat-consuming mothers had an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

But the risk fell to 69 percent if the mother of one parent — either father or mother — had a high-fat diet and the other grandmother had a normal diet during pregnancy.

The scientists cannot explain how diet influences breast cancer risk down two generations but believe "epigenetic" factors are involved.

These are genetic changes caused by the environment that can potentially be passed on to future generations of offspring.

Source Link: Sky News