Epigenetics is emerging as an important field in cancer epidemiology that promises to provide insights into gene regulation and facilitate cancer control throughout the cancer care continuum. Increasingly, investigators are incorporating epigenetic analysis into the studies of etiology and outcomes. To understand current progress and trends in the inclusion of epigenetics in cancer epidemiology,weevaluated the published literature and the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-supported research grant awards in this field to identify trends in epigenetics research. We present a summary of the epidemiologic studies in NCI's grant portfolio (from January 2005 through December 2012) and in the scientific literature published during the same period, irrespective of support from the NCI. Blood cells and tumor tissue were the most commonly used biospecimens in these studies, although buccal cells, cervical cells, sputum, and stool samples were also used. DNA methylation profiling was the focus of the majority of studies, but several studies also measured microRNA profiles. We illustrate here the current status of epidemiologic studies that are evaluating epigenetic changes in large populations. The incorporation of epigenomic assessments in cancer epidemiology studies has and is likely to continue to provide important insights into the field of cancer research.
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