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Human Genome Epidemiology, 2nd EditionBuilding the evidence for using genetic information to improve health and prevent disease$
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Muin Khoury, Sara Bedrosian, Marta Gwinn, Julian Higgins, John Ioannidis, and Julian Little

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195398441

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195398441.001.0001

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The human epigenome and cancer

The human epigenome and cancer

Chapter:
(p.551) 28 The human epigenome and cancer
Source:
Human Genome Epidemiology, 2nd Edition
Author(s):

Mukesh Verma

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195398441.003.0028

Epigenetics, the study of mechanisms that involve mitotically heritable changes in DNA other than changes in nucleotide sequence, represents a new frontier in research, especially in cancer. Most of our cells contain the same DNA, yet gene expression varies dramatically among different tissues. Epigenetic mechanisms establish and maintain this tissue-specific gene expression. Various chemicals (such as nickel, arsenic, cadmium), certain base analogs, radiation, smoke, stress, hormones (such as estradiol), and reactive oxygen species can alter the phenotypes of mammalian cells, via epigenetic mechanisms, without changing the underlying DNA sequence. These agents can alter the methylation and/or acetylation state of the DNA. Contrary to mutations, epigenetic changes can be reversed by chemicals and thus provide opportunities for development of intervention and treatment strategies. Epigenetic markers could be used in cancer detection, diagnosis, prognosis, and epidemiology. This chapter discusses research opportunities at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the 27 Institutes and Centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and efforts to complete human epigenome.

Keywords:   epigenomics, clinical practice, disease prevention, cancer epigenetics, National Cancer Institute

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