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Lancet Oncol. 2002 Dec;3(12):755-63.

Epigenetics in cancer: implications for early detection and prevention.

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Cancer Biomarker Research Group, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute, MD 20892-7346, USA.


Knowledge of the molecular events that occur during the early stages of cancer has advanced rapidly. The initiation and development of cancer involves several molecular changes, which include epigenetic alterations. Epigenetics is the study of modifications in gene expression that do not involve changes in DNA nucleotide sequences. Modifications in gene expression through methylation of DNA and remodelling of chromatin via histone proteins are believed to be the most important of the epigenetic changes. The study of epigenetics offers great potential for the identification of biomarkers that can be used to detect and diagnose cancer in its earliest stages and to accurately assess individual risk. There has been a recent surge of interest among researchers as variations in the methylation of DNA have been shown to be the most consistent molecular changes in many neoplasms. An important distinction between a genetic and an epigenetic change in cancer is that epigenetic changes can be reversed more easily by use of therapeutic interventions. The discovery of these basic premises should stimulate much future research on epigenetics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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