A study carried out at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre identified a link between high-fat diets fed to pregnant rats and the risk of breast cancer in their offspring.
Researchers examined the effects of a high-fat diet on pre-natal and pregnant rats and compared the results to those consuming healthy foods.
It was revealed that breast cancer risk was increased by up to 60 per cent in the daughters and granddaughters of rats fed the high-fat diet when contrasted against the control group.
The study's lead investigator Dr Sonia de Assis explained that male and female rats exposed to high-fat diets in the womb could pass the increased risk on to their offspring - the granddaughters of the pregnant rats.
Further research, published in Nature Communications, demonstrated that increased exposure to oestrogen also raised the chances of offspring developing breast cancer.
The risk rose by 50 per cent in daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters of rats fed an oestrogen supplemented diet in the last week of pregnancy.
Dr de Assis explained that the results indicate that exposure to high-fat diets and oestrogen in the womb could "affect how genes are turned on or turned off".
She added: "Those alterations then can be passed on and affect the risk of disease, in this case breast cancer, in subsequent generations."
As the researcher pointed out, "it is easy to see how this study possibly has human health implications" since society is flooded with fatty foods and substances containing oestrogen have been found in food and drinking water.
Healthy eaters are advised to examine nutrition labels to determine whether foods are high in fat, with those containing more than 20g of fat per 100g deemed to be so.