Breast cancer risk with aromatase inhibition and phytoestrogen-free diet

Kelly Turner, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In this thesis a mouse model was used to examine the effect of pubertal estrogen inhibition and a phytoestrogen-free diet on the development of mammary glands. The study question was does treatment with aromatase inhibitor during puberty increase susceptibility to breast cancer among cohorts that consumed a diet free of phytoestrogens. The study design consisted of a cohort of mice treated with aromatase inhibitor, letrozole, during puberty and a vehicular group that was used as a control. Both groups were fed a diet free of phytoestrogens from the time of weaning until sacrifice during adulthood. The study aimed to assess mammary gland development in terms of breast cancer risk. The methods employed in this research included morphological and histological analysis of mammary glands, as well as estradiol, RNA and protein analysis. The main finding of the study was that mice exposed to aromatase inhibitor during puberty developed mammary glands with specific characteristics suggestive of vulnerability to oncogenesis such as increased lateral branching, increased number of glands, increase ductal hyperplasia, and diminished expression of TGFβ and p27 protein levels. The conclusions suggest that puberty is a critical period in which the mammary gland is susceptible to environmental threats that may result in deleterious epigenetic effects leading to an increased breast cancer risk in adulthood. This study has several public health implications; the most significant is that environmental threats during puberty may result in adverse mammary gland development and that phytoestrogen sources in the diet are necessary for normal maturation of the mammary glands.

Subject Area

Public health|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Turner, Kelly, "Breast cancer risk with aromatase inhibition and phytoestrogen-free diet" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1507197.