Can Mammary Stem Cells Cause Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is probably one of the most common types of cancer in the world and it affects 2 out of 10 women. That being said, researchers are using stem cells to better understand how breast cancers develop and so that they can better find a way to prevent it, rather than making a cure.
What are Mammary Stem Cells?
Whenever a woman experiences their monthly ‘period’, some of their breast tissue gets affected. Some of them even get damaged in the process, but this is actually quite normal.
Mammary stem cells are specialized cells that reside in the woman’s breasts. They have a huge role in the regeneration of breast tissue and it always does so whenever a woman experiences their period.
How Menstrual Cycles Can Affect Women?
During a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle, their ovaries produce the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. They are much-needed by females, however, prolonged and chronic exposure to these hormones can actually contribute to the development of breast cancer.
As you know, one of the reasons why cancers exist is due to the incessant cell division, in this case, in the breasts. However, to this day, scientists still cannot pinpoint how these two hormones actually induce breast cancer, but we do know that they somehow play a part in its development.
How Do Mammary Stem Cells Factor in?
The growth of mammary stem cells is directly proportional to that of the female hormones mentioned earlier. Scientists have found that when women experience a drop in estrogen and progesterone, they, too, experience a drop in their mammary stem cell count.
However, whenever the female hormones were formed or transplanted, the stem cells do not replenish back which is an interesting find. This was the case when scientists transplanted estrogen and progesterone to female mice. They found out that the stem cells, although similar in fashion when it comes to the increase in female hormones, did not function similarly after the previous decrease in hormonal count.
This is probably the reason why some anti-hormone treatments work really well against the development of breast cancers because it seems that the mammary stem cells are not as effective as before the hormone deprivation.
Although there is a possibility that this could explain things, further research is still being conducted to this day.
Where to Go from Here
When women get pregnant, their mammary stem cells grow in number. And, as we knew from the previous section, it could play a major role in the development of breast cancer.
If scientists were to find a way to somehow stunt their growth, we could have the means to prevent cancer from ever developing in the first place.
Also, if the researchers can find a way to block all of the paths that have the ability to control stem cell activity, then we could also eliminate the possibility of developing breast cancer too.
All we can do for now is hope that one day, we can finally prevent this type of cancer from ever developing.