Epigenome-wide scan identifies differentially methylated regions for lung cancer using pre-diagnostic peripheral blood

Naisi Zhao, Mengyuan Ruan, Devin C. Koestler, Jiayun Lu, Carmen J. Marsit, Karl T. Kelsey, Elizabeth A. Platz, Dominique S. Michaud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: DNA methylation markers have been associated with lung cancer risk and may identify aetiologically relevant genomic regions, or alternatively, be markers of disease risk factors or biological processes associated with disease development. Methods: In a nested case–control study, we measured blood leukocyte DNA methylation levels in pre-diagnostic samples collected from 430 participants (208 cases; 222 controls) in the 1989 CLUE II cohort. We compared DNA methylation levels with case/control status to identify novel genomic regions, both single CpG sites and differentially methylated regions (DMRs), while controlling for known DNA methylation changes associated with smoking using a previously described pack-years-based smoking methylation score. Stratification analyses were conducted over time from blood draw to diagnosis, histology, and smoking status. Results: We identified 16 single CpG sites and 40 DMRs significantly associated with lung cancer risk (q < 0.05). The identified genomic regions were associated with genes including H19, HOXA3/HOXA4, RUNX3, BRICD5, PLXNB2, and RP13. For the single CpG sites, the strongest association was noted for cg09736286 in the DIABLO gene (OR [for 1 SD] = 2.99, 95% CI: 1.95–4.59, P-value = 4.81 × 10–7). We found that CpG sites in the HOXA3/HOXA4 region were hypermethylated in cases compared to controls. Conclusion: The single CpG sites and DMRs that we identified represented significant measurable differences in lung cancer risk, providing potential biomarkers for lung cancer risk stratification. Future studies will need to examine whether these regions are causally related to lung cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-472
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • DNA methylation
  • Illumina MethylationEPIC array
  • Lung cancer
  • blood
  • epigenome-wide association study (EWAS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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