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Survivors of Childhood Cancer Show Faster Epigenetic Aging

Faster epigenetic aging among adolescent cancer survivors is associated with increased risk of early-onset obesity, as well as increased morbidity, a new study in JAMA Network Open reports. Previous work had suggested that epigenetic age acceleration was higher among childhood cancer survivors than others who had not had cancer, and in the new study, a St. Jude Children's Research Hospital-led team harnessed an expansion of the St Jude Lifetime Cohort dataset to include more DNA methylation data to explore changes in epigenetic aging. Within this cohort of nearly 3,000 patients, the researchers found children and adolescents who were cancer survivors had higher annual changes in epigenetic aging. The researchers further noted that this increased epigenic aging rate was linked to an increased risk of developing obesity before the age of 20 — a common health condition among young cancer survivors — as well as other chronic health conditions. "Their young chronologic age at presentation highlights the importance of potential early entry point for antiaging interventions including nonpharmacologic (eg, lifestyle modifications) and pharmacologic (eg, DNA methylation or demethylating agents) strategies to reduce morbidity and mortality during survivorship care," the researchers write.