Author(s): Herceg Z
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Abstract While the field of cancer genetics has enjoyed a great deal of attention among cancer researchers in the last few decades, the appreciation of cancer epigenetics is more recent, -owing to the fact that epigenetic mechanisms have emerged as key mechanisms in cancer development. All critical changes in cancer cells, such as silencing of tumour-suppressor genes, activation of oncogenes and defects in DNA repair, are caused not only by genetic but also by epigenetic mechanisms. Epigenetic events can affect many steps in tumour development; therefore, better understanding of epigenetic mechanisms is fundamental to our ability to successfully prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Various environmental and dietary agents and lifestyles are suspected to be implicated in the development of a wide range of human cancers by eliciting epigenetic changes, though the contribution of epigenetic mechanisms to a given human cancer type and the precise targets of epigenetic alterations during cancer development are largely unknown. The major obstacle in establishing a relationship between epigenetic changes and exposure to dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors and cancer is the fact that studies are typically too small and lack statistical power to identify the interactions between epigenetic changes and exposures. Tremendous advances in our understanding of basic epigenetic mechanisms and rapid progress that is being made in developing new powerful technologies, such as those for sensitive and quantitative detection of epigenetic changes as well as for genome-wide analysis (epigenomics), hold great promise that these issues may be addressed in near future. Therefore, experimental evidence on the precise role of epigenetic changes induced by environment, diet and lifestyle is eagerly awaited.
This article was published in Mutagenesis
and referenced in Journal of Pharmacogenomics & Pharmacoproteomics