Citation: Nilsson E, Larsen G, Manikkam M, Guerrero-Bosagna C, Savenkova MI, Skinner MK (2012) Environmentally Induced Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance of Ovarian Disease. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36129. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036129
Summary: A team of researchers have discovered that ovarian disease can be caused by an exposure to a wide range of environmental chemicals. This can then be passed on and inherited by future generations. A group of reproductive biologists studied how a fungicide, pesticide, plastic, dioxin and hydrocarbon mixtures effect on rats. They uncovered that the rat’s fetus was affected and its offspring are at risk of developing ovarian disease. The offspring generations being at risk of inheriting ovarian disease due to this process known as “epigenetic transgenerational inheritance.”
Etiology:the cause, set of causes, or manner of causation of a disease or condition.
CA-125: protein created by cancer ovarian cancer cells.
Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance: is the idea that epigenetic marks (i such as DNA methylation) can be acquired on the DNA of one generation and stably passed on through the gametes (i.e., sperm and eggs) to the next generation
Aspect of Ovarian Cancer: Similar to how males can get testicular cancer, women can also get female-specific caner. One of the most dangerous is ovarian cancer and it is very difficult to diagnose. This is due to the fact that patients present with little or no symptoms of ovarian cancer until it has spread outside the ovaries. By the time it is diagnosed, it is usually in the later stages and the disease is more dangerous.
Most common symptoms that are overlooked are abdominal pain, excess bleeding during menstruation, excess gas and bloating because this is usually associated with PMS. Many of the tumors found on ovaries are also not usually cancerous, and those that are do not look any different from those that are not, leading to the difficulty. The best way to diagnose ovarian cancer is a serum marker test. This test looks for the presence of CA-125 protein in the blood. However, they present in low levels and can be difficult to detect. The most reliable way is through transvaginal ultrasound, which can be used to view and detect abnormal anatomy or lumps on the ovaries. Later, biopsy is needed to remove a piece of ovarian tissue to test for cancer.
Treatment is surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, chemotherapy, hormone treatment, and radiation.
Relevance: Ovarian disease can be fatal when it spreads, as well as lead to other health concerns such as diabetes and unfortunate pregnancy outcomes. This research opens doors on prevention and possibly to new forms of treatment.
Next steps: More clarification of the etiology of ovarian disease and potential role of environmental epigenetics and epigenetic transgenerational inheritance will lead to a greater understanding and insights to methods of preventing the cancer and therapeutic strategies for female health.
Personal experiences: My grandfather passed away 5 years ago from brain cancer. He has a Stage 4 glioblastoma in his frontal lobe. He never had a chance and quickly lost his ability to walk. Cancer is a disease that tears a family apart at times. The man that I admired and looked up to growing up was reduced to living in a nursing home, too paranoid to speak to me, and never having a normal conversation in his last year living. Any progress done with cancer research benefits the world in many ways.