Hormones and Cancer

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 239–248 | Cite as

Alcohol Exposure In Utero Leads to Enhanced Prepubertal Mammary Development and Alterations in Mammary IGF and Estradiol Systems

  • Tiffany A. Polanco
  • Catina Crismale-Gann
  • Wendie S. CohickEmail author


Exposure to alcohol during fetal development increases susceptibility to mammary cancer in adult rats. This study determined if early changes in mammary morphology and the insulin-like growth factor (IGF)/estradiol axis are involved in the mechanisms that underlie this increased susceptibility. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a liquid diet containing 6.7% ethanol (alcohol), an isocaloric liquid diet (pair-fed), or rat chow ad libitum from days 11 to 21 of gestation. At birth, female pups were cross-fostered to ad libitum-fed control dams. Offspring were euthanized at postnatal days (PND) 20, 40, or 80. Animals were injected with BrdU before euthanasia, then mammary glands, serum, and livers were collected. Mammary glands from animals exposed to alcohol in utero displayed increased epithelial cell proliferation and aromatase expression at PND 20 and 40. Mammary IGF-I mRNA was higher in alcohol-exposed animals relative to controls at PND 20, while mammary IGFBP-5 mRNA was lower in this group at PND 40. Hepatic IGF-I mRNA expression was increased at all time points in alcohol-exposed animals, however, circulating IGF-I levels were not altered. These data indicate that alcohol exposure in utero may advance mammary development via the IGF and estradiol systems, which could contribute to increased susceptibility to mammary cancer later in life.


Mammary development Fetal alcohol exposure Estradiol Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-5 Aromatase 



The authors thank Ms. Hillary Stires for her technical assistance. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (F31CA132620 to TAP), The Charles and Johanna Busch Memorial Fund and the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station (Rutgers University to WSC), and by facilities supported by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences Center (E05022).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiffany A. Polanco
    • 1
  • Catina Crismale-Gann
    • 1
  • Wendie S. Cohick
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Rutgers Endocrine Program, Department of Animal SciencesRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

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