DNA methylation among firefighters.

Zhou J, Jenkins TG, Jung AM, Jeong KS, Zhai J, Jacobs ET, Griffin SC, Dearmon-Moore D, Littau SR, Peate WF, et al. 2019. DNA methylation among firefighters. PLoS One. 14:e0214282. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0214282.

Firefighters are exposed to carcinogens and have elevated cancer rates. We hypothesized that occupational exposures in firefighters would lead to DNA methylation changes associated with activation of cancer pathways and increased cancer risk. To address this hypothesis, we collected peripheral blood samples from 45 incumbent and 41 new recruit non-smoking male firefighters and analyzed the samples for DNA methylation using an Illumina Methylation EPIC 850k chip. Adjusting for age and ethnicity, we performed: 1) genome-wide differential methylation analysis; 2) genome-wide prediction for firefighter status (incumbent or new recruit) and years of service; and 3) Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA). Four CpGs, including three in the YIPF6, MPST, and PCED1B genes, demonstrated above 1.5-fold statistically significant differential methylation after Bonferroni correction. Genome-wide methylation predicted with high accuracy incumbent and new recruit status as well as years of service among incumbent firefighters. Using IPA, the top pathways with more than 5 gene members annotated from differentially methylated probes included Sirtuin signaling pathway, p53 signaling, and 5’ AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling. These DNA methylation findings suggest potential cellular mechanisms associated with increased cancer risk in firefighters.