A review of dietary factors and its influence on DNA methylation in colorectal carcinogenesis

Epigenetics. Jul-Aug 2008;3(4):193-8. doi: 10.4161/epi.3.4.6508. Epub 2008 Jul 26.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the most common cancer in non-smokers posing a significant health burden in the UK. Observational studies lend support to the impact of environmental factors especially diet on colorectal carcinogenesis. Significant advances have been made in understanding the biology of CRC carcinogenesis in particular epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation. DNA methylation is thought to occur at least as commonly as inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. In fact compared with other human cancers, promoter gene methylation occurs most commonly within the gastrointestinal tract. Emerging data suggest the direct influence of certain micronutrients for example folic acid, selenium as well as interaction with toxins such as alcohol on DNA methylation. Such interactions are likely to have a mechanistic impact on CRC carcinogenesis through the methylation pathway but also, may offer possible therapeutic potential as nutraceuticals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Folic Acid