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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2014 Dec 5;455(1-2):70-83. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2014.08.002. Epub 2014 Aug 11.

Epigenetic epidemiology of cancer.

Author information

1
Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology, Freiburg Medical Center, University of Freiburg, 79106, Germany; German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), Heidelberg, Germany; German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address: timothy.barrow@uniklinik-freiburg.de.
2
Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology, Freiburg Medical Center, University of Freiburg, 79106, Germany; Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Electronic address: kmichels@research.bwh.harvard.edu.

Abstract

Epigenetic epidemiology includes the study of variation in epigenetic traits and the risk of disease in populations. Its application to the field of cancer has provided insight into how lifestyle and environmental factors influence the epigenome and how epigenetic events may be involved in carcinogenesis. Furthermore, it has the potential to bring benefit to patients through the identification of diagnostic markers that enable the early detection of disease and prognostic markers that can inform upon appropriate treatment strategies. However, there are a number of challenges associated with the conduct of such studies, and with the identification of biomarkers that can be applied to the clinical setting. In this review, we delineate the challenges faced in the design of epigenetic epidemiology studies in cancer, including the suitability of blood as a surrogate tissue and the capture of genome-wide DNA methylation. We describe how epigenetic epidemiology has brought insight into risk factors associated with lung, breast, colorectal and bladder cancer and review relevant research. We discuss recent findings on the identification of epigenetic diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for these cancers.

KEYWORDS:

Biomarkers; Cancer; DNA methylation; Epidemiology; Epigenetics

PMID:
25124661
DOI:
10.1016/j.bbrc.2014.08.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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