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Atm-haploinsufficiency enhances susceptibility to carcinogen-induced mammary tumors.Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), which is due to mutations in the ATM gene, is a rare autosomal recessive genomic instability syndrome characterized by radiosensitivity and predisposition to cancer. Epidemiological studies have suggested that relatives of A-T patients (A-T carriers) have increased risks of developing breast cancer. We propose that increased breast cancer risks in A-T carriers may be due to exposure to various environmental carcinogens and/or dietary consumption. To test this hypothesis, we treated a congenic strain of Atm+/- mice with DMBA (7,12-dimethylbenz(alpha)anthracene), a mammary carcinogen, and observed mammary tumor incidence. It was found that Atm+/- mice have a 2-fold increase, as well as early onset, in mammary tumor incidence relative to wild-type mice (P<0.005). The increased mammary tumor development is correlated with a 3-fold increase in the development of mammary dysplasia in Atm+/- compared with wild-type mice (P<0.05). We also found that Ras signaling pathway was not activated in DMBA-induced mammary tumors irrespective of the Atm status. At the cellular level, Atm-haploinsufficiency confers increased cellular stress manifested by an increased p53 expression and a slightly enhanced survival of mammary epithelial cells in response to radiation. Our results demonstrate that Atm heterozygotes are predisposed to mammary tumor development and support the hypothesis that exposure to environmental carcinogens contributes to the increased rate of breast cancer development in A-T carriers. Given that 1% of the general population are ATM heterozygotes (A-T carriers), this study has great implications in breast cancer development in this population.
The parity-related protection against breast cancer is compromised by cigarette smoke during rat pregnancy: observations on tumorigenesis and immunological defenses of the neonate.Early pregnancy is a powerful negative risk factor for breast cancer (BCa) in women. Pregnancy also protects rats against induction of BCa by carcinogens such as N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU), making the parous rat a useful model for studying this phenomenon. Smoking during early pregnancy may lead to an increased risk of BCa in later life, possibly attributable to carcinogens in cigarette smoke (CS), or to reversal of the parity-related protection against BCa. To investigate these possibilities, 50-day-old timed first-pregnancy rats were exposed to standardized mainstream CS (particle concentration = 50 mg/m3) or to filtered air (FA) 4 h/day, Day 2-20 of gestation. Age-matched virgin rats were similarly exposed to CS or FA. At age 100 days, the CS or FA-exposed, parous and virgin rats were injected s.c. with MNU (50 mg/kg body wt), or with MNU vehicle. Mammary tumors (MTs) first appeared in virgin rats 9 weeks post-MNU injection. While no MTs were detected in FA-exposed parous rats until 18 weeks post-MNU, MTs appeared in the CS-exposed parous rats as early as 10 wks (P < 0.02). As no MTs developed in CS-exposed rats not injected with MNU, CS did not act as a direct mammary carcinogen. Serum prolactin concentration on Day 19 of pregnancy in CS-exposed dams was reduced by 50% compared with FA-exposed dams (P < 0.005). CS exposure during a pregnancy may thus 'deprotect' rats, enhancing their vulnerability to MNU-induced BCa. Prenatal CS exposure had no detectable effect on the immune responses of the pups examined at 3, 8 or 19 weeks of age. However, prolactin concentration in stomach contents (milk) of 3-day-old pups suckled by CS-exposed dams was decreased when compared with that of FA-exposed dams (P < 0.032). As milk-borne prolactin modulates development of the central nervous and immune systems of neonatal rats, CS exposure of the dams could adversely affect later maturation of these systems by reducing milk prolactin.