Association of internal smoking dose with blood DNA methylation in three racial/ethnic populations

Sungshim L. Park, Yesha M. Patel, Lenora W.M. Loo, Daniel J. Mullen, Ite A. Offringa, Alika Maunakea, Daniel O. Stram, Kimberly Siegmund, Sharon E. Murphy, Maarit Tiirikainen, Loïc Le Marchand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death. While cigarette smoking is the primary cause of this malignancy, risk differs across racial/ethnic groups. For the same number of cigarettes smoked, Native Hawaiians compared to whites are at greater risk and Japanese Americans are at lower risk of developing lung cancer. DNA methylation of specific CpG sites (e.g., in AHRR and F2RL3) is the most common blood epigenetic modification associated with smoking status. However, the influence of internal smoking dose, measured by urinary nicotine equivalents (NE), on DNA methylation in current smokers has not been investigated, nor has a study evaluated whether for the same smoking dose, circulating leukocyte DNA methylation patterns differ by race. Methods: We conducted an epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) of NE in 612 smokers from three racial/ethnic groups: whites (n = 204), Native Hawaiians (n = 205), and Japanese Americans (n = 203). Genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of blood leukocyte DNA was measured using the Illumina 450K BeadChip array. Average β value, the ratio of signal from a methylated probe relative to the sum of the methylated and unmethylated probes at that CpG, was the dependent variables in linear regression models adjusting for age, sex, race (for pan-ethnic analysis), and estimated cell-type distribution. Results: We found that NE was significantly associated with six differentially methylated CpG sites (Bonferroni corrected p < 1.48 × 10-7): four in or near the FOXK2, PBX1, FNDC7, and FUBP3 genes and two in non-annotated genetic regions. Higher levels of NE were associated with increasing methylation beta-valuesin all six sites. For all six CpG sites, the association was only observed in Native Hawaiians, suggesting that the influence of smoking dose on DNA methylation patterns is heterogeneous across race/ethnicity (p interactions < 8.8 × 10-8). We found two additional CpG sites associated with NE in only Native Hawaiians. Conclusions: In conclusion, internal smoking dose was associated with increased DNA methylation in circulating leukocytes at specific sites in Native Hawaiian smokers but not in white or Japanese American smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110
JournalClinical epigenetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 23 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the NIH grants R01CA85997 and P01CA138338, the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center Core grant P30CA014089, the University of Southern California Provost Fellowship and Roy E. Thomas Foundation Award (DJM), and TRDRP grant 26IR-0019 (to IAO). The MEC study is supported by UM1CA164973.


  • DNA methylation
  • Japanese Americans
  • Native Hawaiians
  • Nicotine equivalents
  • Smoking
  • Whites

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