Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 317–327 | Cite as

DNA Methylation Age—Environmental Influences, Health Impacts, and Its Role in Environmental Epidemiology

  • Radhika Dhingra
  • Jamaji C. Nwanaji-Enwerem
  • Madeline Samet
  • Cavin K. Ward-CavinessEmail author
Environmental Epigenetics (A Baccarelli and A Cardenas, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Environmental Epigenetics


Purpose of Review

DNA methylation-based aging biomarkers are valuable tools for evaluating the aging process from a molecular perspective. These epigenetic aging biomarkers can be evaluated across the lifespan and are tissue specific. This review examines the literature relating environmental exposures to DNA methylation-based aging biomarkers and also the literature evaluating these biomarkers as predictors of health outcomes.

Recent Findings

Multiple studies evaluated the association between air pollution and DNA methylation age and consistently observed that higher exposures are associated with elevated DNA methylation age. Psychosocial exposures, e.g., traumas and adolescent adversity, and infections are also associated with epigenetic aging. DNA methylation age has been repeatedly associated with mortality, cancer, and cognitive impairment.


DNA methylation age is responsive to the environment and predictive of health outcomes. Studies are still needed to evaluate whether DNA methylation age acts as a mediator or modifier of environmental health effects and to understand the impact of factors such as race, gender, and genetics.


DNA methylation age Environment Environmental epidemiology Epidemiology Epigenetic age Environmental exposure 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Radhika Dhingra, Jamaji C. Nwanaji-Enwerem, Madeline Samet, and Cavin K. Ward-Caviness declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Radhika Dhingra
    • 1
  • Jamaji C. Nwanaji-Enwerem
    • 2
  • Madeline Samet
    • 3
  • Cavin K. Ward-Caviness
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory, US Environmental Protection AgencyChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental HealthHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Oberlin CollegeOberlinUSA

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