Aim: Epigenetic changes may occur in response to environmental stressors, and an altered epigenome pattern may represent a stable signature of environmental exposure.
Materials & methods: Here, we examined the potential of DNA methylation changes in 910 prediagnostic peripheral blood samples as a marker of exposure to tobacco smoke in a large multinational cohort.
Results: We identified 748 CpG sites that were differentially methylated between smokers and nonsmokers, among which we identified novel regionally clustered CpGs associated with active smoking. Importantly, we found a marked reversibility of methylation changes after smoking cessation, although specific genes remained differentially methylated up to 22 years after cessation.
Conclusion: Our study has comprehensively cataloged the smoking-associated DNA methylation alterations and showed that these alterations are reversible after smoking cessation.
Keywords: DNA methylome; epigenetic signature; prospective cohort; tobacco smoking.