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


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.

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Correspondence to Cavin K. Ward-Caviness.

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

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Disclaimer: All authors read and approved the final manuscript. The research described in this article has been reviewed by the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, and approved for publication. Approval does not signify that the contents necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Agency, nor does the mention of trade names of commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Environmental Epigenetics

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Dhingra, R., Nwanaji-Enwerem, J.C., Samet, M. et al. DNA Methylation Age—Environmental Influences, Health Impacts, and Its Role in Environmental Epidemiology. Curr Envir Health Rpt 5, 317–327 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-018-0203-2

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  • DNA methylation age
  • Environment
  • Environmental epidemiology
  • Epidemiology
  • Epigenetic age
  • Environmental exposure