Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders affect a signifi cant number of live births each year, indicating that alcohol consumption during pregnancy is an important public health issue. Environmental exposures and lifestyle choices during pregnancy may affect the offspring’s risk of disease in adulthood, leading to the idea that a woman’s risk of breast cancer may be pre-programmed prior to birth. Exposure of pregnant rats to alcohol increases tumorigenesis in the adult offspring in response to mammary carcinogens. The estrogen and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) axes occupy central roles in normal mammary gland development and breast cancer. 17-β estradiol (E2) and IGF-I synergize to regulate formation of terminal end buds and ductal elongation during pubertal development. The intracellular signaling pathways mediated by the estrogen and IGF-I receptors cross-talk at multiple levels through both genomic and non-genomic mechanisms. Several components of the E2 and IGF-I systems are altered in early development in rat offspring exposed to alcohol in utero, therefore, these changes may play a role in the enhanced susceptibility to mammary carcinogens observed in adulthood. Alcohol exposure in utero induces a number of epigenetic alterations in non-mammary tissues in the offspring and other adverse in utero exposures induce epigenetic modifi cations in the mammary gland. Future studies will determine if fetal alcohol exposure can induce epigenetic modifi cations in genes that regulate E2/IGF action at key phases of mammary development, ultimately leading to changes in susceptibility to carcinogens.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Fetal alcohol
- Fetal origins
- Mammary tumorigenesis