Background: Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among Turkish women and both the incidence and associated mortality appear to be increasing. Of particular concern is the percentage of young women diagnosed with breast cancer; roughly 20% of all breast cancer diagnoses in Turkey are in women younger than 40 years. Increased DNA methylation in the promoter region of tumor suppressor genes is a promising molecular biomarker, and human milk provides exfoliated breast epithelial cells appropriate for DNA methylation analyses. Comparisons between DNA methylation patterns in epithelial (epithelial-enriched) and nonepithelial (epithelial-depleted) cell fractions from breast milk have not been reported previously.
Objective: In the present study, we examined promoter methylation of 3 tumor suppressor genes in epithelial-enriched and epithelial-depleted cell fractions isolated from breast milk of 43 Turkish women.
Methods: Percentage methylation in the promoter region of Rass association domain family 1 (RASSF1), secreted frizzle related protein 1 (SFRP1), and glutathione-S-transferase class pi 1 was determined by pyrosequencing of the epithelial-enriched and epithelial-depleted cell fractions.
Results: Pyrosequencing identified a few subjects with significantly increased methylation in 1 or more genes. There was little correlation between the 2 cell fractions within individuals; only 1 woman had increased methylation for 1 gene (SFRP1) in both her enriched and depleted cell fractions. Methylation was positively associated with age for SFRP1 (epithelial-depleted fraction) and with body mass index for RASSF1 (epithelial-enriched cell fraction), respectively.
Conclusion: Overall, results show that the methylation signals vary between different cell types in breast milk and suggest that breast milk can be used to assess DNA methylation patterns associated with increased breast cancer risk.
Keywords: GSTP1; Istanbul; RASSF1; SFRP1; breast epithelial cells; breast milk; breastfeeding; promoter methylation; pyrosequencing.
© The Author(s) 2014.