Lower levels of global DNA methylation in white blood cell (WBC) DNA have been associated with adult cancers. It is unknown whether individuals with a family history of cancer also have lower levels of global DNA methylation early in life. We examined global DNA methylation in WBC (measured in three repetitive elements, LINE1, Sat2 and Alu, by MethyLight and in LINE1 by pyrosequencing) in 51 girls aged 6-17 years. Compared to girls without a family history of breast cancer, methylation levels were lower for all assays in girls with a family history of breast cancer and statistically significantly lower for Alu and LINE1 pyrosequencing. After adjusting for age, body mass index (BMI) and Tanner stage, only methylation in Alu was associated with family history of breast cancer. If these findings are replicated in larger studies, they suggest that lower levels of global WBC DNA methylation observed later in life in adults with cancer may also be present early in life in children with a family history of cancer.
- DNA global methylation
- Early life exposure