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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Apr;1100:60-74.

Cross-talk between aging and cancer: the epigenetic language.

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Epigenetics Laboratory, Spanish National Cancer Centre (CNIO), 28029 Madrid, Spain.


The risk of having cancer increases with age probably because progenitor cells from mature organisms accumulate enough molecular lesions to evade the homeostatic control of their tissular contexts. Molecular lesions can be genetic (mutations, deletions, or translocations) and/or epigenetic. Epigenetic signaling, including DNA methylation and histone modification, is essential for normal development and becomes altered during Aging and by cancer. Several epigenetic alterations, such as global hypomethylation and CpG island hypermethylation, are progressively accumulated during Aging and directly contribute to cell transformation. Intriguingly, others, such as those involved in the control of telomere length and several epigenetic enzymes belonging to the family of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)(+) dependent deacetylases known as sirtuins, exhibit a well-defined progression during Aging that is dramatically reverted in transformed cells. We discuss the biological significance of both groups of epigenetic modifications in terms of their relative contribution to ontogenic development, senescence, and cell proliferation.

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