Stem Cell Reviews

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 103–109 | Cite as

Normal breast stem cells, malignant breast stem cells, and the perinatal origin of breast cancer

  • Todd M. Savarese
  • Hoi Pang Low
  • Inkyung Baik
  • William C. Strohsnitter
  • Chung-Cheng Hsieh
Original Article


Both experimental and epidemiological evidence support the concept that the in utero environment can influence an individual's risk of breast cancer in adult life. Recently identified breast stem cells may be the key to understanding the mechanism underlying this phenomenon. It has been theorized that breast cancers arise from breast stem cells. Our emerging view of the characteristics of normal breast stem cells and their link to malignant breast stem cells is reviewed here. It has also been postulated that factors that expand the normal breast stem cell pool in utero would increase the probability that one such cell might undergo an oncogenic mutation or epigenetic change. We dicuss how a number of proposed perinatal determinants of adult breast cancer risk, including (1) in utero estrogen and IGF-1 levels, (2) birthweight, (3) breast density, and (4) early-life mutagen exposure, can be tied together by this “breast stem cell burden” hypothesis.

Index Entries

Breast stem cells malignant breast stem cells estrogen IGF-1 birth-weight breast cancer risk perinatal risk factors for breast cancer 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd M. Savarese
    • 1
  • Hoi Pang Low
    • 2
  • Inkyung Baik
    • 1
  • William C. Strohsnitter
    • 3
  • Chung-Cheng Hsieh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cancer Biology, Division of Biostatistics and EpidemiologyUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcester
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcester
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyTufts-New England Medical CenterBoston

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