Increased epigenetic age in normal breast tissue from luminal breast cancer patients

Erin W. Hofstatter, Steve Horvath, Disha Dalela, Piyush Gupta, Anees B. Chagpar, Vikram B. Wali, Veerle Bossuyt, Anna Maria Storniolo, Christos Hatzis, Gauri Patwardhan, Marie Kristin Von Wahlde, Meghan Butler, Lianne Epstein, Karen Stavris, Tracy Sturrock, Alexander Au, Stephanie Kwei, Lajos Pusztai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Background: Age is one of the most important risk factors for developing breast cancer. However, age-related changes in normal breast tissue that potentially lead to breast cancer are incompletely understood. Quantifying tissue-level DNA methylation can contribute to understanding these processes. We hypothesized that occurrence of breast cancer should be associated with an acceleration of epigenetic aging in normal breast tissue. Results: Ninety-six normal breast tissue samples were obtained from 88 subjects (breast cancer = 35 subjects/40 samples, unaffected = 53 subjects/53 samples). Normal tissue samples from breast cancer patients were obtained from distant non-tumor sites of primary mastectomy specimens, while samples from unaffected women were obtained from the Komen Tissue Bank (n = 25) and from non-cancer-related breast surgery specimens (n = 28). Patients were further stratified into four cohorts: age < 50 years with and without breast cancer and age ≥ 50 with and without breast cancer. The Illumina HumanMethylation450k BeadChip microarray was used to generate methylation profiles from extracted DNA samples. Data was analyzed using the "Epigenetic Clock," a published biomarker of aging based on a defined set of 353 CpGs in the human genome. The resulting age estimate, DNA methylation age, was related to chronological age and to breast cancer status. The DNAmAge of normal breast tissue was strongly correlated with chronological age (r = 0.712, p < 0.001). Compared to unaffected peers, breast cancer patients exhibited significant age acceleration in their normal breast tissue (p = 0.002). Multivariate analysis revealed that epigenetic age acceleration in the normal breast tissue of subjects with cancer remained significant after adjusting for clinical and demographic variables. Additionally, smoking was found to be positively correlated with epigenetic aging in normal breast tissue (p = 0.012). Conclusions: Women with luminal breast cancer exhibit significant epigenetic age acceleration in normal adjacent breast tissue, which is consistent with an analogous finding in malignant breast tissue. Smoking is also associated with epigenetic age acceleration in normal breast tissue. Further studies are needed to determine whether epigenetic age acceleration in normal breast tissue is predictive of incident breast cancer and whether this mediates the risk of chronological age on breast cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 29 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomarkers
  • Breast
  • Breast neoplasms
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Epigenomics
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)

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  • Cite this

    Hofstatter, E. W., Horvath, S., Dalela, D., Gupta, P., Chagpar, A. B., Wali, V. B., Bossuyt, V., Storniolo, A. M., Hatzis, C., Patwardhan, G., Von Wahlde, M. K., Butler, M., Epstein, L., Stavris, K., Sturrock, T., Au, A., Kwei, S., & Pusztai, L. (2018). Increased epigenetic age in normal breast tissue from luminal breast cancer patients. Clinical Epigenetics, 10(1), [112].