Dads' obesity may up offspring's risk of cancer

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 10, 2013 11:20 hrs

A father's obesity is one factor that may influence his children's health and potentially raise their risk for diseases like cancer, according to new research by Duke Medicine.

The study, which shows that paternal obesity may alter a genetic mechanism in the next generation, suggests that a father's lifestyle factors may be transmitted to his children.

Molecular biologist Adelheid Soubry said that the aim of the study was to determine potential associations between obesity in parents prior to conception and epigenetic profiles in offspring, particularly at certain gene regulatory regions.

The research team sought to determine associations between obesity in parents and changes in DNA methylation at the insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) gene among offspring.

DNA methylation regulates the activity of certain genes, which can reflect a higher risk for some diseases. Decreased DNA methylation at the IGF2 gene has been associated with an increased risk of developing certain cancers, including colorectal and ovarian cancers.

Cathrine Hoyo, a cancer epidemiologist and the study's senior author, said that though our genes are able to adapt to our environment, we adjust in a way that may be problematic later.

Hoyo added that It is not a change in the sequence of the DNA itself, but how genes are expressed. Some genes may get 'shut off' as a result of environmental trauma.

Researchers gathered information about the mothers and fathers using questionnaires and medical records and examined DNA from the umbilical cords of 79 newborns to determine potential associations between the offspring's DNA methylation patterns and parental obesity before conception.

DNA methylation at the IGF2 gene in the offspring of obese fathers was significantly lower than in the children of fathers who were not obese. This suggests that paternal obesity may be associated with an increased risk of children developing certain cancers.

The researchers noted that the changes in DNA methylation could have been a result of something related to obesity, such as eating a certain diet or having diabetes, which was not measured in this study.

The research was published in the journal BMC Medicine. (ANI)

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