Exploring the putative impact of circadian rhythms is a relatively novel approach to illuminating hormone-related female breast cancer etiology and prognosis. One of several proposed mechanisms underlying breast cancer risk among individuals exposed to light at night involves circadian gene alterations. Although in vitro and animal studies indicate a key role of circadian genes in breast tumor suppression, there is a paucity of data on the role of circadian genes in human breast cancer. This review summarizes recent findings of circadian gene expression and DNA methylation profile from human breast cancer studies in relation to hormonal status, clinicopathological features of tumors, and exposure to night shift work. The major findings from human studies indicate that expression of circadian genes is deregulated in breast cancer. Breast cancer etiology and prognosis-associated PERs, CRYs, CLOCK downregulation, and TIMELESS upregulation may be related to relevant gene methylation in tumor tissue. Alterations and desynchronization of molecular clock machinery found on genetic and epigenetic level were observed in more aggressive breast cancer tumors and those lacking estrogen receptors.
Keywords: Breast cancer; Circadian genes; Gene expression; Gene methylation; Night shift work.
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