Environmental pollution and DNA methylation: carcinogenesis, clinical significance, and practical applications
Laboratory of Molecular and Experimental Pathology, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650223, China
Environmental pollution is one of the main causes of human cancer. Exposures to environmental carcinogens result in genetic and epigenetic alterations which induce cell transformation. Epigenetic changes caused by environmental pollution play important roles in the development and progression of environmental pollution-related cancers. Studies on DNA methylation are among the earliest and most conducted epigenetic research linked to cancer. In this review, the roles of DNA methylation in carcinogenesis and their significance in clinical medicine were summarized, and the effects of environmental pollutants, particularly air pollutants, on DNA methylation were introduced. Furthermore, prospective applications of DNA methylation to environmental pollution detection and cancer prevention were discussed.