Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 53–62 | Cite as

Active and secondhand smoke exposure throughout life and DNA methylation in breast tumors

  • Catherine L. CallahanEmail author
  • Matthew R. Bonner
  • Jing Nie
  • Youjin Wang
  • Meng-Hua Tao
  • Peter G. Shields
  • Catalin Marian
  • Kevin H. Eng
  • Maurizio Trevisan
  • Jo L. Freudenheim
Original paper



Tobacco smoke exposure has been associated with altered DNA methylation. However, there is a paucity of information regarding tobacco smoke exposure and DNA methylation of breast tumors.


We conducted a case-only analysis using breast tumor tissue from 493 postmenopausal and 225 premenopausal cases in the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer (WEB) study. Methylation of nine genes (SFN, SCGB3A1, RARB, GSTP1, CDKN2A, CCND2, BRCA1, FHIT, and SYK) was measured with pyrosequencing. Participants reported their secondhand smoke (SHS) and active smoking exposure for seven time periods. Unconditional logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) of having methylation higher than the median.


SHS exposure was associated with tumor DNA methylation among postmenopausal but not premenopausal women. Active smoking at certain ages was associated with increased methylation of GSTP1, FHIT, and CDKN2A and decreased methylation of SCGB3A1 and BRCA1 among both pre- and postmenopausal women.


Exposure to tobacco smoke may contribute to breast carcinogenesis via alterations in DNA methylation. Further studies in a larger panel of genes are warranted.


Breast cancer DNA methylation Tobacco Secondhand smoke Epigenetics 



This article was prepared while Catherine Callahan and Youjin Wang were employed at the University at Buffalo. The opinions expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not reflect the view of the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the United States government.


Catherine L. Callahan was supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Grant R25CA113951.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no potential conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine L. Callahan
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Matthew R. Bonner
    • 2
  • Jing Nie
    • 2
  • Youjin Wang
    • 2
    • 3
  • Meng-Hua Tao
    • 4
  • Peter G. Shields
    • 5
  • Catalin Marian
    • 5
    • 6
  • Kevin H. Eng
    • 7
  • Maurizio Trevisan
    • 8
  • Jo L. Freudenheim
    • 2
  1. 1.Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Health ProfessionsUniversity at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  3. 3.Clinical Genetics Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biostatistics and EpidemiologyUniversity of North Texas Health Science CenterFort WorthUSA
  5. 5.Division of Cancer Prevention and ControlCollege of Medicine and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer CenterColumbusUSA
  6. 6.Department of Biochemistry and PharmacologyUniversity of Medicine and Pharmacy TimisoaraTimisoaraRomania
  7. 7.Department of Biostatistics and BioinformaticsRoswell Park Cancer InstituteBuffaloUSA
  8. 8.City College of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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