Towards an integrated model for breast cancer etiology: the crucial role of the number of mammary tissue-specific stem cells

Breast Cancer Res. 2005;7(1):13-7. doi: 10.1186/bcr966. Epub 2004 Nov 5.


Perinatal events and conditions, notably birth weight, are associated with breast cancer risk in offspring, and correlates of mammary gland mass are predictors of breast cancer risk. These findings may be interpreted as indicating that high levels of estrogens and components of the insulin-like growth factor system during pregnancy favour the generation of mammary tissue-specific stem cells, and that the number of these cells, which is positively associated with mammary gland mass, is an important determinant of breast cancer risk. Perinatal events and conditions may also affect risk for other malignancies, but the evidence in the case of breast cancer is prominent, possibly because estrogens and the insulin-like growth factor system are both involved in breast cancer etiology and affect birth weight.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast / growth & development
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Somatomedins / physiology
  • Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Estrogens
  • Somatomedins