Acceleration of leukocytes' epigenetic age as an early tumorand sex-specific marker of breast and colorectal cancer

Danielle Fernandes Durso, Maria Giulia Bacalini, Claudia Sala, Chiara Pirazzini, Elena Marasco, Massimiliano Bonafé, Ítalo Faria do Valle, Davide Gentilini, Gastone Castellani, Ana Maria Caetano Faria, Claudio Franceschi, Paolo Garagnani, Christine Nardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Changes in blood epigenetic age have been associated with several pathological conditions and have recently been described to anticipate cancer development. In this work, we analyze a publicly available leukocytes methylation dataset to evaluate the relation between DNA methylation age and the prospective development of specific types of cancer. We calculated DNA methylation age acceleration using five state-ofthe- art estimators (three multi-site: Horvath, Hannum, Weidner; and two CpG specific: ELOV2 and FHL2) in a cohort including 845 subjects from the EPIC-Italy project and we compared 424 samples that remained cancer-free over the approximately ten years of follow-up with 235 and 166 subjects who developed breast and colorectal cancer, respectively. We show that the epigenetic age estimated from blood DNA methylation data is statistically significantly associated to future breast and male colorectal cancer development. These results are corroborated by survival analysis that shows significant association between age acceleration and cancer incidence suggesting that the chance of developing age-related diseases may be predicted by circulating epigenetic markers, with a dependence upon tumor type, sex and age estimator. These are encouraging results towards the non-invasive and perspective usage of epigenetic biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23237-23245
Number of pages9
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Cancer, blood
  • ELOVL2
  • Epigenetic clock
  • FHL2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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