Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Pregnant Protection

Breast cancer development reduced by epigenetic changes in breast tissue in pregnancy

14 August 2020

Pregnant Protection

Nine months of pregnancy produce a little bundle of life, and all the joy (and hard work) that brings. But the process also provides a less obvious perk: women who have been pregnant before the age of 25 have a 30% lower risk of breast cancer. To understand why that is, and perhaps one day replicate this benefit for others, researchers studied the molecular behaviour of breast cells from pregnant mice. They found that pregnancy prompts cells to tightly wrap part of their DNA containing a gene that can cause cancer called cMYC (red), locking it away and preventing it from being activated, so reducing the chances of cancer arising. The next step is to examine the process in human breast tissue in the lab (pictured, with cMYC in red and different breast cell types in green and blue) and see if the process can be replicated for other women.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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