Differences in DNA Methylation-Based Age Prediction Within Twin Pairs Discordant for Cancer

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2022 Oct;25(4-5):171-179. doi: 10.1017/thg.2022.32. Epub 2022 Sep 8.


DNA methylation-based age acceleration (DNAmAA) is associated with cancer, with both cancer tissue and blood showing increased DNAmAA. We aimed to investigate whether DNAmAA is associated with cancer risk within twin pairs discordant for cancer, and whether DNAmAA has the potential to serve as a biomarker for such. The study included 47 monozygotic and 48 same-sex-dizygotic cancer-discordant twin pairs from the Finnish Twin Cohort study with blood samples available between 17 and 31 years after the cancer diagnosis. We studied all cancers (95 pairs), then separately breast cancer (24 pairs) and all sites other than breast cancer (71 pairs). DNAmAA was calculated for seven models: Horvath, Horvath intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, Hannum, Hannum intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, Hannum extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, PhenoAge and GrimAge. Within-pair differences in DNAmAA were analyzed by paired t tests and linear regression. Twin pairs sampled before cancer diagnosis did not differ significantly in DNAmAA. However, the within-pair differences in DNAmAA before cancer diagnosis increased significantly the closer the cancer diagnosis was, and this acceleration extended for years after the diagnosis. Pairs sampled after the diagnosis differed for DNAmAA with the Horvath models capturing cancer diagnosis-associated DNAmAA across all three cancer groupings. The results suggest that DNAmAA in blood is associated with cancer diagnosis. This may be due to epigenetic alterations in relation to cancer, its treatment or associated lifestyle changes. Based on the current study, the biomarker potential of DNAmAA in blood appears to be limited.

Keywords: Epigenetic age acceleration; breast cancer; cancer-discordant twin pairs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Biomarkers
  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA Methylation* / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Twins, Monozygotic


  • Biomarkers