Epigenetics Offer New Horizons for Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Curr Colorectal Cancer Rep. 2012 Mar;8(1):66-81. doi: 10.1007/s11888-011-0116-z. Epub 2012 Jan 14.


In recent years, colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence has been increasing to become a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide from cancers, with high rates in westernized societies and increasing rates in developing countries. Epigenetic modifications including changes in DNA methylation, histone modifications, and non-coding RNAs play a critical role in carcinogenesis. Epidemiological data suggest that, in comparison to other cancers, these alterations are particularly common within the gastrointestinal tract. To explain these observations, environmental factors and especially diet were suggested to both prevent and induce CRC. Epigenetic alterations are, in contrast to genetic modifications, potentially reversible, making the use of dietary agents a promising approach in CRC for the development of chemopreventive strategies targeting epigenetic mechanisms. This review focuses on CRC-related epigenetic alterations as a rationale for various levels of prevention strategies and their potential modulation by natural dietary compounds.