BACKGROUND - Recent data suggest a link between blood leukocyte DNA methylation, and cancer risk. However, reports on DNA methylation from a prospective study are unavailable for gastric cancer.
METHODS - We explored the association between methylation in pre-diagnostic blood leukocyte DNA and gastric cancer risk in a case-control study nested in the prospective Shanghai Women's Health Study cohort. Incident gastric cancer cases (n=192) and matched controls (n=384) were included in the study. Methylation of Alu and long interspersed nucleotide elements (LINE)-1 were evaluated using bisulphite pyrosequencing. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated from logistic regression adjusting for potential confounders.
RESULTS - Alu methylation was inversely associated with gastric cancer risk, mainly among cases diagnosed one or more years after blood collection. After excluding cases diagnosed during the first year of follow-up, the ORs for the third, second, and first quartiles of Alu methylation compared with the highest quartile were 2.43 (1.43-4.13), 1.47(0.85-2.57), and 2.22 (1.28-3.84), respectively. This association appeared to be modified by dietary intake, particularly isoflavone. In contrast, LINE-1 methylation levels were not associated with gastric cancer risk.
CONCLUSION - Evidence from this prospective study is consistent with the hypothesis that DNA hypomethylation in blood leukocytes may be related to cancer risk, including risk of gastric cancer.