Women who eat lots of whole wheat during pregnancy may lower the risk of breast cancer in their baby girls, according to a study published in the Nov 15, 2006 issue of International Journal of Cancer.
Lead researcher Dr. Leena Hilanivi-Clarke from Georgetown University in Washington DC and her colleagues conducted their study in rats which revealed that daughters of mother rats that were fed with whole wheat during pregnancy were less likely to develop breast cancer.
The researchers fed pregnant rats with diets containing 6 percent fiber from whole wheat flour, oat flour, defatted flax flour or cellulose as a control. The offspring was then exposed to a chemical known to cause breast cancer.
The researchers found that the rats whose mothers were fed the whole wheat diet were less likely to develop breast cancer. In contrast, offspring of mothers that were fed defatted flax flour were at increased cancer whereas those whose mothers were assigned oat flour faced neither increased nor decreased risk of breast cancer.
Previous studies have suggested that fiber may reduce breast cancer risk because it lowers levels of circulating estrogen that has been linked to enhancing the development of breast cancer. However the results of studies on the effect of dietary fiber are inconsistent.
Hilanivi-Clarke and colleagues concluded that the whole wheat diet somehow affects cell growth and death, which has led them to believe that the whole wheat diet might somehow improve the DNA repairing capabilities in the animals.
Earlier studies including some by Hilanivi-Clarke's team had shown several dietary factors affect the risk of developing breast cancer. For instance daughters of mothers who used a high fat diet during pregnancy are more likely to acquire breast cancer.
Dr. Leena Hilakivi-Clarke said, 'It might be beneficial to include whole wheat in the diet when one is expecting. 'The model we're using should be relatively valid to make assumptions about what's going on in humans.'