Alcohol and DNA Methylation: An Epigenome-Wide Association Study in Blood and Normal Breast Tissue

Am J Epidemiol. 2019 Jun 1;188(6):1055-1065. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwz032.


The biological mechanisms driving associations between alcohol consumption and chronic diseases might include epigenetic modification of DNA methylation. We explored the hypothesis that alcohol consumption is associated with methylation in an epigenome-wide association study of blood and normal breast tissue DNA. Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip (Illumina Inc., San Diego, California) array data on blood DNA methylation was examined in a discovery set of 2,878 non-Hispanic white women from the Sister Study (United States, 2004-2015) who provided detailed questionnaire information on lifetime alcohol use. Robust linear regression modeling was used to identify significant associations (false discovery rate of Q < 0.05) between the number of alcoholic drinks per week and DNA methylation at 5,458 cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites. Associations were replicated (P < 0.05) for 677 CpGs in an independent set of 187 blood DNA samples from the Sister Study and for 628 CpGs in an independent set of 171 normal breast DNA samples; 1,207 CpGs were replicated in either blood or normal breast, with 98 CpGs replicated in both tissues. Individual gene effects were notable for phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PGHDH), peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase (PPIF), solute carrier 15 (SLC15), solute carrier family 43 member 1 (SLC43A1), and solute carrier family 7 member 11 (SLC7A11). We also found that high alcohol consumption was associated with significantly lower global methylation as measured by the average of CpGs on the entire array.

Keywords: DNA methylation; alcohol consumption; breast cancer; epigenome-wide association study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • CpG Islands / drug effects*
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects*
  • Epigenome / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Siblings
  • United States