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Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1539-50. doi: 10.1007/s10552-009-9415-y.

Promoter methylation and the detection of breast cancer.

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology, Department of Environmental Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, 650 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016-3240, USA.


Mammographic screening has been shown to reduce breast cancer mortality in women over the age of 50 years, and to a lesser extent in younger women. The sensitivity of mammography, however, is reduced in some groups of women. There remains a need for a minimally invasive, cost-effective procedure that could be used along side mammography to improve screening sensitivity. Silencing of tumor suppressor genes through promoter hypermethylation is known to be a frequent and early event in carcinogenesis. Further, changes in methylation patterns observed in tumors are also detectable in the circulation of women with breast cancer. This makes these alterations candidate markers for early tumor detection. In this paper, we review the current literature on promoter hypermethylation changes and breast cancer and discuss issues that remain to be addressed in order for the potential of these markers to augment the sensitivity of screening mammography. In general, studies in well-defined populations, including appropriate controls and larger numbers are needed. Further, focus on the optimization of methods of methylation detection in small amounts of DNA is needed.

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