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Study reveals cancer-linked epigenetic effects of smoking
Date:10/9/2010

The researchers selected this group of women to ensure there were no potential cofounding factors for the detection of p16 methylation in otherwise healthy young women.

The particular gene the researchers were studying was p16, a so-called tumor suppressor gene. When it is methylated, this gene's normal tumor-suppressing function is inactivated.

"DNA methylation is a type of epigenetic change that can result in tumor suppressor genes being inactivated," said Dr Ma. "Methylation of p16 has been frequently associated with the development of cancer in many parts of the body."

Because the women were all taking part in a study of cervical neoplasia, Dr Ma used cells from cervical smears to test for methylation of p16. Her group found that women who took up smoking during the study were more than three times as likely (odds ratio of 3.67) to acquire p16 methylation.

"Our study showed that compared with never-smokers, women who first started to smoke during follow-up had an increased risk of acquiring methylation of p16," Dr Ma said. "Our choice of study design and our study population allowed us to reveal, for the first time, the relationship between starting to smoke and the subsequent appearance of an epigenetic change."

The results provide evidence that smoking does induce DNA methylation, Dr Ma said. "The next step is now to show that women who acquire such smoking-induced methylation have an increased risk of developing malignancy."


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Contact: Vanessa Pavinato
media@esmo.org
European Society for Medical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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