Moms-to-be who scoff junk food may not only be harming their unborn child, but could also be putting their future grandchildren at risk of breast cancer, a new study has claimed.
Researchers have carried out the study and found that mothers can pass the legacy of an unhealthy diet onto their daughters and granddaughters, raising their odds of breast cancer, the \'Daily Mail\' reported.
For their study, the researchers fed some pregnant rats normally and gave others the same amount of calories but in a much fattier form. They then looked at breast cancer rates in the animal\'s daughter and granddaughters, both of which were fed normally.
Despite this second and third generation not gorging on fatty food, they were up to 60 per cent more likely to develop breast tumours than other rodents.
The researchers, from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, then tried to work out how something that happened in pregnancy can go on to affect the health for generations to come.
They showed that it wasn\'t due to the junk food diet raising levels of oestrogen, a hormone that fuels the growth of breast tumours.
Instead, they believe it can be explained by a process called epigenetics, in which conditions in womb cause subtle changes to the way genes work. These changes, different to mutations, can be passed down the line from mom to daughter, or from father to son, time and time again.
In this case, the tiny changes may increase the number of potentially cancerous \"buds\" in the breast.
Lead researcher Dr Sonia de Assis said: \"That is our theory but we don\'t really know how it is happening just yet.\"
Despite this, she believes there is a clear message for human health. \"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.\"
The findings have been presented at the American Association for Cancer Research\'s annual conference recently.