DNA hypomethylation is prevalent even in low-grade breast cancers

Cancer Biol Ther. 2004 Dec;3(12):1225-31. doi: 10.4161/cbt.3.12.1222. Epub 2004 Dec 9.


Hypomethylation of some portions of the genome and hypermethylation of others are very frequent attributes of human cancer. We previously showed that cancer-associated DNA hypomethylation often involves satellite 2 (Sat2), the main DNA component of the large juxtacentromeric (centromere-adjacent) heterochromatin of chromosome 1. In this study, we compared methylation of Sat2 and centromeric satellite DNA (Satalpha) as well as overall genomic methylation in 41 breast adenocarcinomas of known tumor grade and stage, 16 non-neoplastic breast tissues (mostly fibroadenomas), and a variety of normal somatic tissue controls. The cancers were significantly hypomethylated at Sat2 relative to the fibroadenomas or normal somatic tissues and at Satalpha relative to the normal somatic tissues. However, unlike Sat2, Satalpha did not display significant differences in methylation between the cancers and the non-neoplastic breast tissues. Therefore, hypomethylation at Sat2 is a much better marker of breast cancer than is Satalpha hypomethylation. There was a significant association of Sat2 hypomethylation with global DNA hypomethylation in the cancers but not with tumor grade, stage, axillary lymph node involvement, or hormone receptor status. Extensive cancer-associated hypomethylation of juxtacentromeric satellite DNA and global DNA hypomethylation were common even in grade-1 or stage-1 carcinomas, which suggests that demethylation of the genome is an early event in breast carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 1 / genetics
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA, Neoplasm*
  • DNA, Satellite
  • Female
  • Fibroadenoma / genetics
  • Fibroadenoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms, Ductal, Lobular, and Medullary / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Ductal, Lobular, and Medullary / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • DNA, Satellite