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Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology

Body mass index is associated with gene methylation in estrogen receptor-positive breast tumors.


PMID 25583948

Abstract

Although obesity is associated with breast cancer incidence and prognosis, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Identification of obesity-associated epigenetic changes in breast tissue may advance mechanistic understanding of breast cancer initiation and progression. The goal of this study, therefore, was to investigate associations between obesity and gene methylation in breast tumors. Using the Illumina GoldenGate Cancer I Panel, we estimated the association between body mass index (BMI) and gene methylation in 345 breast tumor samples from phase I of the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, a population-based case-control study. Multivariable linear regression was used to identify sites that were differentially methylated by BMI. Stratification by tumor estrogen receptor (ER) status was also conducted. In the majority of the 935 probes analyzed (87%), the average beta value increased with obesity (BMI ≥ 30). Obesity was significantly associated with differential methylation (FDR q < 0.05) in just two gene loci in breast tumor tissue overall and in 21 loci among ER-positive tumors. Obesity was associated with methylation of genes that function in immune response, cell growth, and DNA repair. Obesity is associated with altered methylation overall, and with hypermethylation among ER-positive tumors in particular, suggesting that obesity may influence the methylation of genes with known relevance to cancer. Some of these differences in methylation by obese status may influence levels of gene expression within breast cells. If our results are validated, obesity-associated methylation sites could serve as targets for prevention and treatment research. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 24(3); 580-6. ©2015 AACR.