Methods in Molecular Biology Volume 471, 2009, pp 457-467

Epigenetic Targets in Cancer Epidemiology

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Recently, it has been shown that epigenetic changes are involved in early stages of tumorigenesis, and they may trigger the genetic events leading to tumor development. In cancer epidemiology, there are several epigenetic alterations involved, such as DNA hypermethylation, DNA hypomethylation, and chromatin modifications with critical roles in the initiation and progression of human neoplasms. This chapter discusses the hypermethylation profiles of several tumor types, including bladder, brain, breast, colorectal, ovarian, prostate, and other cancers as well as DNA hypomethylation phenomena together with the chromatin modifications and their role in the complex mechanism of epigenetic silencing. Moreover, the involvement of environmental exposures in cancer susceptibility is addressed. In conclusion, these epigenetic changes are important characteristics of human neoplasia, and a better understanding of these modifications and the link between these changes for each tumor type will be important in early diagnosis of cancer and cancer prevention.