Grandmothers' unhealthy diets may predispose subsequent generations to breast cancer

One of the biggest contributors to adult cancers is an unhealthy childhood diet.1

Cancer takes years and years to develop. In fact,  a woman's diet during pregnancy is known to influence the risk of childhood cancers in her children.2 A woman’s risk of breast cancer similarly is influenced during fetal development by her mother’s dietary habits.3 But breast cancer risk may begin even earlier than this.

An animal study suggests that breast cancer risk may be transmitted even from previous generations – that a grandmother’s unhealthy diet may translate into increased breast cancer risk for her granddaughters. 

The researchers conducted their study as follows:  A generation of female rats (grandmothers) was fed either a normal or high-fat diet during pregnancy - the high-fat diet provided an excess amount of omega-6 fat, attempting to partially mimic the standard American diet, with its abundance omega-6-rich animal products and oils.  Mother and granddaughter rats were fed a normal diet, and granddaughter rats either had two normal diet grandmothers, two high-fat diet grandmothers, or one of each. “Granddaughter” rats were given a chemical carcinogen to initiate breast cancer, and researchers recorded whether or not they developed tumors.4

These were their findings:

  • 50% of the rats with two normal diet grandmothers developed breast tumors
  • 68% of the rats with one high-fat diet grandmother developed breast tumors
  • 80% of the rats with two high-fat diet grandmothers developed breast tumors5

Based on these results, an unhealthy diet may cause inheritable changes in gene expression, causing subsequent generations to be more susceptible to breast cancer-initiating factors such as chemical carcinogens. Family-related risk of breast cancer is usually thought to be related only to specific genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are known to increase breast cancer risk. However, this study points to non-genetic, but family-related transmission of risk via dietary habits.

These findings imply that what mothers eat during pregnancy not only affects their children, but their children’s children as well.


1. Maynard M, Gunnell D, Emmett P, Frankel S, Davey Smith G. Fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort. JEpidemiol Community Health. 2003 Mar;57(3):218-25

2. Kwan ML et al. Maternal diet and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Public Health Rep. 2009 Jul-Aug;124(4):503-14.

Tower RL et al. The epidemiology of childhood leukemia with a focus on birth weight and diet. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2007;44(3):203-42.

Petridou E et al. Maternal diet and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in young children.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Aug;14(8):1935-9.

Jensen CD et al. Maternal dietary risk factors in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (United States).Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Aug;15(6):559-70.

Huncharek M et al. A meta-analysis of maternal cured meat consumption during pregnancy and the risk of childhood brain tumors. Neuroepidemiology. 2004 Jan-Apr;23(1-2):78-84.

3. De Assis S, Hilakivi-Clarke L. Timing of dietary estrogenic exposures and breast cancer risk. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Nov;1089:14-35.

4. De Assis S, Cruz MI, Warri A, et al. Exposure of rat dams to a high-fat or estradiol-supplemented  diet during pregnancy alters mammary gland morphology and increases mammary cancer risk in their daughters and granddaughters. In: Proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2010 Apr 17-21; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; 2010. Abstract number 2931

5. Callaway E. New Scientist. Rats on junk food pass cancer down the generations.

Drugs used to treat preventable diseases carry serious risks (Part 2 - ARBs)

Part 2:

Angiotensin receptor blockers - anti-hypertensive drugs – linked to lung cancer and heart-related deaths


Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) are used to to treat hypertension, heart failure, and diabetic nephropathy (kidney dysfunction). They work by blocking a hormone system that regulates vascular tone and water and salt balance to control blood pressure.

Because angiotensin can affect cell survival and angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), two important factors in tumor growth, angiotensin is thought to play a role in cancer progression.1 To determine whether taking ARBs affected cancer risk, scientists performed a meta-analysis of several studies to uncover any possible links between ARBs and cancers. They determined that ARBs carry a increased risk of new diagnosis of any cancer (8%), and a significantly higher risk of lung cancer (25%).2

One ARB in particular, olmesartan (Benicar), is now under scrutiny by the FDA for potential cardiovascular risks. In a clinical trial testing olmesartan’s efficacy for slowing kidney damage in diabetics, there were increased rates of sudden cardiac death and death from heart attack and stroke in the subjects taking the drug compared to those taking placebo.3

In my practice, and from results recorded from members at, even people with dramatically high blood pressure readings and dramatically high cholesterol levels have successfully returned their levels to normal without medications. In fact, as published in the medical journal Metabolism, the nutritarian diet is the most effective method to lower high cholesterol, even more effective than drugs.4 If people were very informed of these results and the risks involved with taking medications many more would certainly embrace nutritional excellence as therapy. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are lifestyle-created conditions, and the safest and most effective treatment is a high nutrient diet and exercise.




1. Li H, Qi Y, Li C, et al. Angiotensin type 2 receptor-mediated apoptosis of human prostate cancer cells.Mol Cancer Ther. 2009 Dec;8(12):3255-65.

Feng Y, Wan H, Liu J, et al. The angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 in tumor growth and tumor-associated angiogenesis in non-small cell lung cancer. Oncol Rep. 2010 Apr;23(4):941-8.

Zhao Y, Chen X, Cai1 L, et al. Angiotensin II / Angiotensin II type I receptor (AT1R) signaling promotes MCF-7 breast cancer cells survival via PI3-kinase/Akt pathway. J Cell Physiol. 2010 May 10. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Sipahi I, Debanne SM, Rowland DY, et al. Angiotensin-receptor blockade and risk of cancer: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Lancet Oncol. 2010 Jun 11. [Epub ahead of print]

3. Reuters: UPDATE 2 – FDA looking into death risk from Daiichi’s Benicar.

4. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Popovich DG, et al. Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism. 2001 Apr;50(4):494-503.