Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
The breast attains its maximum development during pregnancy and lactation. After menopause the breast regresses in both nulliparous and parous women containing lobular structures that have been designated lobules type 1. Despite the similarity in the lobular composition of the breast at menopause, the fact that nulliparous women are at higher risk of developing breast cancer than parous women, indicates that Lobules type 1 in these two groups of women might be biologically different, or exhibit different susceptibility to carcinogenesis. Based on these observations it was postulated that the Lobule type 1 found in the breast of nulliparous women and of parous women with breast cancer never went through the process of differentiation, retaining a high concentration of epithelial cells that are targets for carcinogens and therefore susceptible to undergo neoplastic transformation, these cell are called Stem cells 1, whereas Lobules type 1 structures found in the breast of early parous postmenopausal women free of mammary pathology, on the other hand, are composed of an epithelial cell population that is refractory to transformation called Stem cells 2. It was further postulated that the degree of differentiation acquired through early pregnancy has changed the "genomic signature" that differentiates the Lobule type 1 from the early parous women from that of the nulliparous women by shifting the Stem cell 1 to a Stem cell 2 that is refractory to carcinogenesis, making this the postulated mechanism of protection conferred by early full term pregnancy. The identification of a putative breast stem cell (Stem cell 1) has reached in the last decade a significant impulse and several markers also reported for other tissues have been found in the mammary epithelial cells of both rodents and humans. Although still more work needs to be done in order to better understand the role of the Stem cell 2 and its interaction with the genes that confer it a specific signature, collectively, the data presently available provides evidence that pregnancy, through the process of cell differentiation, shifts the Stem cell 1 to Stem cell 2, cells that exhibit a specific genomic signature that could be responsible for the refractoriness of the mammary gland to carcinogenesis.