Aging, cancer and nutrition: The DNA methylation connection

Liang Liu, Rebecca C. Wylie, Lucy G. Andrews, Trygve O. Tollefsbol

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Cancer and aging are two coupled developmental processes as reflected by the higher incidence of cancer in the elderly human population group. Genetic mutations accumulate in somatic cells with age, which may explain in part the association of age with cancer. Epigenetic mechanisms are also frequently involved in controlling gene functions during development and tumorigenesis. A common molecular feature associated with both aging and tumorigenesis is global hypomethylation of the genomic DNA. The contributing mechanisms underlying this hypomethylation are not yet well understood. Epigenetic investigation of cancer and aging has recently emerged as a fruitful area of study and has added exciting insights into some of the mysteries surrounding aging and cancer. Recent studies have also shown that dietary factors can modulate DNA methylation and thereby contribute to aging and tumorigenesis. Thus, DNA methylation provides an important common link between aging, cancer and nutrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-998
Number of pages10
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Issue number10-12
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Leukemia Research Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the John A. Hartford Foundation. We would like to thank Dr. Mitchell Pate for continuous support, In-Kyung Kim for proofreading the references and Kliph Woodfin for his initial interest in preparing this manuscript.


  • Aging
  • Calorie restriction
  • Cancer
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Nutrition


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