Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study reveals cancer-linked epigenetic effects of smoking

For the first time, UK scientists have reported direct evidence that taking up smoking results in epigenetic changes associated with the development of cancer.

The results were reported at the 35th Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in Milan, Italy.

The link between smoking and cancer has been established for decades, explained Dr Yuk Ting Ma from the Cancer Research UK Institute of Cancer Studies, Birmingham, who presented the results. Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world, and years of research have confirmed that carcinogenic substances in tobacco smoke can damage DNA.

Scientists have also suspected that smoking causes so-called epigenetic changes, such as methylation, which alter gene expression without causing changes to the actual DNA sequence.

"Until now, however, there has been no direct evidence that smoking induces DNA methylation in humans," Dr Ma said. "Cross-sectional surveys restricted to patients with cancer have revealed that aberrant methylation of several tumor suppressor genes is associated with smoking. But such surveys cannot distinguish those epigenetic changes that are a consequence of the disease process from those which are directly attributable to smoking."

In a study funded by Cancer Research UK, the British team set out to clarify the link between smoking and methylation in a cohort of 2,011 healthy young women aged 15-19 who were originally recruited as part of a study of pre-cancerous changes to cells of the cervix.

"For this particular study we have identified all the women from that cohort who had normal smears and who also tested negative for human papillomavirus throughout follow-up," Dr Ma explained. "In this subgroup of disease-free women we have then tested the cervical smears of all the women who first started to smoke following study entry for p16 methylation, and compared them to women who were never smokers."

The researchers selected this group of women to ensure there were no potential cofounding factors for the detection of p16 methylation in otherwise healthy young women.

The particular gene the researchers were studying was p16, a so-called tumor suppressor gene. When it is methylated, this gene's normal tumor-suppressing function is inactivated.

"DNA methylation is a type of epigenetic change that can result in tumor suppressor genes being inactivated," said Dr Ma. "Methylation of p16 has been frequently associated with the development of cancer in many parts of the body."

Because the women were all taking part in a study of cervical neoplasia, Dr Ma used cells from cervical smears to test for methylation of p16. Her group found that women who took up smoking during the study were more than three times as likely (odds ratio of 3.67) to acquire p16 methylation.

"Our study showed that compared with never-smokers, women who first started to smoke during follow-up had an increased risk of acquiring methylation of p16," Dr Ma said. "Our choice of study design and our study population allowed us to reveal, for the first time, the relationship between starting to smoke and the subsequent appearance of an epigenetic change."

The results provide evidence that smoking does induce DNA methylation, Dr Ma said. "The next step is now to show that women who acquire such smoking-induced methylation have an increased risk of developing malignancy."

Notes to Editors

Contact the ESMO Press Office at to find out:

How to follow press briefings remotely via toll-free dial-in
How to schedule one-on-one interviews with top speakers, presenters of the studies and ESMO key opinion leaders

The Congress full program is available at

Media registration

On-site registration is possible at the Press Registration Desk. You will be asked for your press card and a letter of assignment.

About the European Society for Medical Oncology

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) is the leading European professional organization committed to advancing the specialty of medical oncology and promoting a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment and care.

ESMO's mission is to advance cancer care and cure through fostering and disseminating good science that leads to better medicine and determines best practice. In this way ESMO fulfils its goal to support oncology professionals in providing people with cancer with the most effective treatments available and the high-quality care they deserve.

The ESMO community is a powerful alliance of more than 6,000 committed oncology professionals from over 100 countries. As a trusted organization with 35 years of experience and over 500 expert officers, ESMO serves its members and the oncology community through: a brand of excellence in post-graduate oncology education and training; leadership in transforming evidence-based research into standards of cancer care in Europe; dedicated efforts to foster a more favorable environment for scientific research; innovative international platforms to share expertise, best practices and disseminate the most up-to-date scientific research to as wide an audience as possible.

ESMO's scientific journal, Annals of Oncology, ranks among the top clinical oncology journals worldwide. ESMO events are the meeting place in Europe for medical oncologists to update their knowledge, to network and to exchange ideas.

To find our more about our Society, please visit:

Vanessa Pavinato | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

21.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>