Epigenetic events in tumorigenesis: putting the pieces together
Summary. The development of cancer is a complex multifactorial process traditionally viewed as the stepwise accumulation of genetic alterations. However, recent advances in field of cancer research have established that all major human cancers, in addition to a large number of genetic alterations, exhibit prominent epigenetic abnormalities. This review presents current evidence that epigenetic alterations are not only key features of cancer cells, but they also may be key events in the initiation of carcinogenesis. The early appearance of cancer-linked epigenetic changes that are similar to those found in malignant cells provides a unique opportunity to use them as biomarkers in early cancer detection, indicators of carcinogenic exposure, and in the assessment of the carcinogenic potential of environmental chemical and physical agents.
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