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Epigenetic modification can mediate environmental influences on gene expression and can modulate the disease risk associated with genetic variation. Epigenetic analysis therefore holds substantial promise for identifying mechanisms through which genetic and environmental factors jointly contribute to disease risk. The spatial and temporal variance in epigenetic profile is of particular relevance for developmental epidemiology and the study of aging, including the variable age at onset for many common diseases. This review serves as a general introduction to the topic by describing epigenetic mechanisms, with a focus on DNA methylation; genetic and environmental factors that influence DNA methylation; epigenetic influences on development, aging, and disease; and current methodology for measuring epigenetic profile. Methodological considerations for epidemiologic studies that seek to include epigenetic analysis are also discussed.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/aje/kwn380

Type

Journal article

Journal

Am j epidemiol

Publication Date

15/02/2009

Volume

169

Pages

389 - 400

Keywords

Aging, Animals, DNA Methylation, Environment, Environmental Exposure, Epigenesis, Genetic, Gene Expression, Humans, Molecular Epidemiology, Neoplasms, Risk Factors