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Air pollution linked to DNA changes and breast cancer

Scientists at the University at Buffalo have linked the inhalation of air pollution in early stages of life to changes in DNA methylation and a higher likelihood of breast cancer later in life.

"The investigation looked for an association between exposure to pollution and alterations to DNA that influence the presence or absence of key proteins. Such genetic changes are thought to be major contributors to cancer development and progression, including at very early stages," said Katharine Dobson, MPH, who is the lead investigator of the study and works in the Department of Social and Preventative Medicine.

The scientists found changes in DNA methylation for those who were exposed to air pollution at birth. Methylation is a process that affects which genes are "turned on."

Another effect of air pollution was in the tumor-suppressor gene, p16. For women carrying their first child, a higher level of air pollution led to changes in p16.

In the U.S., about one in eight women is are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. Mammograms are an important way to detect cancer early and prevent the illness from growing.
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