The study from the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program at Michigan State University indicated that before any tumors appear, there are changes in the breast that include increased cell growth and alterations in immune cells.
These changes persist into adulthood and can lead to the rapid development of precancerous lesions and ultimately breast cancer.
In addition to the accelerated breast cancer development, this type of diet produces a distinct gene signature in the tumors consistent with a subset of breast cancers known as basal-like that can carry a worse prognosis.
"This is very significant because even though the cancers arise from random mutations, the gene signature indicating a basal-like breast cancer shows the overarching and potent influence this type of diet has in the breast," Sandra Haslam, one of the lead investigators of the project, said.
Richard Schwartz, microbiology professor in the College of Natural Science, who co-led the research said that it is important to note that since the experimental model did not involve any weight gain from the high-fat diet, these findings are relevant to a much broader segment of the population than just those who are overweight. This shows the culprit is the fat itself rather than weight gain.
The study was published in journal Breast Cancer Research.