In a new study, researchers found older biological age is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.
Biological age is a DNA-based estimate of a person’s age.
The research was conducted by a group of scientists at the National Institutes of Health.
Previous studies have shown that measuring DNA methylation could determine a person’s biological age.
DNA methylation a chemical modification to DNA. It is part of the normal aging process.
In the current study, the team hypothesized that age acceleration may be linked to higher breast cancer risk because age is the leading risk factor for breast cancer.
They examined DNA provided by women in the NIEHS-led Sister Study.
That big study included a group of more than 50,000 women in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
The researchers measured methylation in a subset of 2,764 women. All of the women had no cancer at the time of blood collection.
The team used three different measures, called epigenetic clocks, to estimate biologic age.
These tools could measure methylation found at specific locations in DNA.
The team then compared the biologic age with chronologic age in each woman.
They found for every five years a woman’s biologic age was older than her actual age, the woman had a 15% increase in her risk of breast cancer.
In addition, when the biologic age was younger than the chronologic age, the risk of developing breast cancer decreased.
The findings showed that age acceleration is really bad a woman’s health.
The researchers suggest that biologic age may be tied to environmental exposures.
Future research needs to focus on exposures and lifestyles that may affect biologic age.
They also suggest that biological age could capture the variability in health better than chronologic age.
Moreover, DNA methylation can be an effective tool to measure biologic age and help predict who is at risk of cancer and other age-related diseases.
The lead author of the study is Jacob Kresovich, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow. The corresponding author is Jack Taylor, head of the NIEHS Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology Group.
The study is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
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Further reading: Journal of the National Cancer Institute.