Skip to content


Breast Cancer Awareness Month

New Content Item

Article Overview by James Flanagan
Epigenetic Age and Risk of Breast Cancer, James Flanagan, Imperial College London

There has been considerable work over the last few years trying to identify DNA methylation biomarkers of breast cancer risk in blood DNA using the Illumina 450k array and more recently the methylationEPIC (850k) array. Some studies, such as ours (PMID:26244061) have identified an overall genome-wide hypomethylation in blood DNA associated with breast cancer risk, while other studies have not replicated this finding. More recently, the idea of an “epigenetic clock”, “age acceleration” or “biological aging” has been explored in an increasing large number of areas and it is starting to gain traction in cancer risk studies.

What is the mechanistic cause of an increased epigenetic age? There are now many studies reporting correlations with epigenetic age ranging from lifestyle factors, such as obesity, menopause, tobacco and alcohol consumption, to stress and even violence in children. However, it is important to note that correlation does not equal causation, and it will require carefully designed intervention studies to pin down the real mechanisms driving the inter-individual variation in “epigenetic age”. Importantly, it has also been associated with increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease and cancer. It makes sense that if you are biologically 70 years old, then your risk of disease or mortality will match that of a 70 year old, rather than the healthy 65 year old that you might otherwise be. The same can be seen with risk of breast cancer, which we know increases with increasing age. In a study by Ambatipudi and colleagues (PMID: 28259012) the increased epigenetic age was associated with increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. In a recent study in Clinical Epigenetics by Hofstatter and colleagues (PMID:3015795) they showed that the increased epigenetic age could be observed in normal breast tissue of cancer patients compared with normal breast tissue of non-cancer patients. This is a very important finding as it shows that epigenetic age is an important factor in the tissue of origin of the disease.

However, there is much that remains to be investigated in this area. Is an individual who is epigenetically older in their breast tissue also epigenetically older in their blood DNA. In other words, is epigenetic age itself tissue specific or is blood DNA an appropriate surrogate for other tissues? Is it stable over time and needs measuring just once, or is it variable over time requiring serial samples to measure an individual’s fluctuation over time. Lastly, what can I do about it if I am epigenetically older. Can it be reversed? Can I be rejuvenated and turn back time?

Dr Flanagan is an Editorial Board member and the author of the paper Epigenome-wide association study reveals decreased average methylation levels years before breast cancer diagnosis published in Clinical Epigenetics.

Featured articles for Breast Cancer Awareness month - 

  1. Large-scale analysis of DFNA5 methylation reveals its potential as biomarker for breast cancer
  2. Increased epigenetic age in normal breast tissue from luminal breast cancer patients
  3. DNA methylation and hormone receptor status in breast cancer
  4. The epigenetic modifier JMJD6 is amplified in mammary tumors and cooperates with c-Myc to enhance cellular transformation, tumor progression, and metastasis
  5. Targeting histone methyltransferases and demethylases in clinical trials for cancer therapy

To learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please visit our webpage or read our blog.

Call for Papers: Pollution and Epigenetics

Air Pollution Level 5 in London, 30 April 2014 © Credit: David Holt (CC BY 2.0)

Guest Editors: Wim Vanden Berghe (University of Antwerp in Belgium, Lifestyle Epigenetics Editor) and Steven Gray (St James University in Ireland, Nutritional Epigenetics Editor)

 In 2013, it was reported that an eight-year-old girl developed lung cancer [Kessler, R. (2014) Nature. 509(7502):S62-3.]. The cause of her cancer was attributed by her doctor to be due to accumulation of fine particulate matter in her lungs leading to neoplastic change. From diesel particulates to endocrine disruptors, asbestos, heavy metals to molecules like bisphenol A (BPA), it is becoming increasingly clear that man’s propensity to pollute has significant consequences on human health. Moreover, strong evidence now links such pollution to changes within our epigenomes. In this thematic series, we explore the causes and consequences of pollution on the epigenome, how this may have effects not only on the epigenetics of the individual exposed to such pollution, but also review how this may be further exacerbated by downstream or “transgenerational” inheritance of these epigenetic changes. With the recent world-wide concerns regarding “micro-plastics”, should we be concerned that nano-technology could further expose our epigenomes to additional environmental challenges?

In a series of cutting-edge reviews Clinical Epigenetics will explore these possibilities in a thematic series on “Pollution and Epigenetics,” reviewing the critical roles that exposure to environmental pollution may have on the epigenome.

Deadline for submissions: December 15, 2018


Most accessed articles RSS

View all articles

Cross-journal collection
Pluripotent Stem Cells
First published: 19 July 2018


Cross-journal collection
Asthma Genetics and Epigenetics
Collection first published: 19 October 2016

Epigenetic Drugs
Edited by: Lucia Altucci & Marianne Rots
First published: 23 May 2016


Breakthroughs in clinical epigenetics
Edited by: Marianne Rots
First published: 1 March 2015


Aims & Scope

Encompassing the broad spectrum of epigenetics research from basic research to innovations in therapeutic treatments, Clinical Epigenetics is a top tier, open access journal devoted to the study of epigenetic principles and mechanisms as applied to human development, disease, diagnosis and treatment. The journal particularly welcomes submissions involving clinical trials, translational research, new and innovative methodologies and model organisms. The journal is divided into the following sections:

  • Aging and development epigenetics
  • Allergy, immunology, and pathogen epigenetics
  • Cancer epigenetics and diagnostics
  • Cardiovascular epigenetics
  • Endocrinology and metabolic epigenetics
  • Environmental epigenetics
  • Epigenetic Biomarkers
  • Epigenetic Technologies
  • Epigenetic drugs and clinical trials
  • Innovative therapies
  • Lifestyle epigenetics
  • Neurology and psychiatry epigenetics
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Reproductive and Transgenerational Epigenetics

For more information on the the section aims and scope visit our section information page. If you are unclear which section would be best suited to your submission, we invite you to submit a pre-submission inquiry by selecting the Contact Us option here

Graphical Abstracts Now Available

Authors submitting to Clinical Epigenetics now have the option to include a Graphical Abstract when they submit their manuscript.  An image may be uploaded during submission which, together with the article title and abstract text, should provide the reader with a visual description of the topic covered in the article. Graphical abstracts will appear in the HTML version of the article (but not in the PDF version). Instructions for including graphical abstracts is available in the Submission Guidelines for the appropriate article types.

Upcoming Meetings

Systems Epigenetics: Towards Precision Medicine Cancer Conference

November 27-30, 2018 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at the KIT Royal Tropical Institute

Learn more about the meeting here

Archival Content

In October 2011, Clinical Epigenetics became a fully open access journal and is now published as part of BioMed Central's portfolio of journals. To view the journal's content prior to this transition, please see SpringerLink.

Meet our Editors-in-Chief

Lucia AltucciLucia Altucci studied Medicine & Surgery at Federico II University of Naples, Italy. After obtaining a Specialization degree in Medical Oncology and a PhD degree in molecular and cellular Pathology, she worked as Assistant and later as Associate Professor at the Second University of Naples, Italy. She has been Post-Doc scientist both at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) in London, UK and at the ‘Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire’ (IGBMC) in Strasbourg, France. She is currently Professor of General Pathology and Rector’s delegate for Research & Innovation at University of Campania ‘Luigi Vanvitelli’ in Naples, Italy.

Lucia’s research interests are in: translational medicine (particularly on genome and epigenome deregulation in cancer), stemness, differentiation, cell death processes, and the application of epigenome-based drug discovery approaches in human diseases. As a co-Editor-in-Chief, she is committed to improve the standards of Clinical Epigenetics and to further expand basic and applied epigenetics research at a preclinical and clinical level. Given her medical expertise, she will focus on improving integration of ‘basic’ epigenome knowledge as possible disease-related markers as well as on the potential of chromatin modulation as innovative treatments against human pathologies or as a preventive strategy in predisposed patients.

Marianne Rots © © Worcflow - Visuele marketing & BeeldcommunicatieMarianne Rots studied Medical Biology at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After obtaining a PhD degree in Medical Oncology in 2000 at the VU Medical Center Amsterdam, she has been a postdoctoral scientist at the Gene Therapy Center of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, AL, USA. In 2001, she was recruited as an Assistant Professor to co-establish the Department of Therapeutic Gene Modulation, School of Pharmacy at the University of Groningen, NL. Appointed as an Associate Professor in 2007, she joined the Department of Pathology and Medical Biology, University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands where she currently is Full Professor of Molecular Epigenetics.

Marianne also serves as a vice-chair of the EU H2020 COST Action CM1406 ( and chairs the Program Committee of the Master BioMedical Sciences and Medical Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen. She pioneered epigenetic editing approaches to rewrite epigenetic marks at a given genomic location, allowing to functionally validate epigenetic mutations and to translate these into precision therapeutic targets: “towards the curable epigenome”. As a chief editor, she is committed to maintain the high standards of Clinical Epigenetics and to further expand on the impact of this platform. Her aim is to continue to inform the scientific community on the clinical relevance of epigenetic dysregulations through publishing state of the art research manuscripts. Through the commissioning of reviews or letters to the editors, the communication between clinicians and biologists/chemists is encouraged, while exciting hypotheses can be put forward to stimulate scientific innovation.
(Photo credit: © Worcflow - Visuele marketing & Beeldcommunicatie)

Society Information

The "Clinical Epigenetics Society" (CLEPSO) is a non-profit organization founded at Saarland University.

The society has five main objectives:

  • Promotion and support of scientific research projects and initiatives within the field of clinical epigenetics.
  • Promotion of the scientific exchange amongst its members.
  • Encouragement and support of relations to national and international societies within the area of clinical and translational research.
  • Development of an international research and scientific network within the field of clinical epigenetics.
  • Providing a forum for encouraging discussions and contributions to the advancement of clinical epigenetics, through the Clinical Epigenetics journal, Blogs, scientific symposia, meetings, and newsletters.


2017 Journal Metrics