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Accelerated Biological Aging in Breast Cancer Survivors: Implications for Treatment Modalities

By: Amanda E. Ruffino, BA
Posted: Friday, August 18, 2023

Breast cancer survivors may experience faster biological aging, as suggested by an increased incidence of age-related diseases in this population. To investigate this phenomenon, Jacob K. Kresovich, PhD, MPH, of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, Florida, and colleagues conducted a prospective study using DNA methylation data from 417 women enrolled in the Sister Study cohort, with blood samples collected approximately 7.7 years apart. The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, aimed to assess three epigenetic metrics of biological aging—PhenoAgeAccel, GrimAgeAccel, and DunedinPACE (which use DNA methylation to measure how fast a person is aging at the molecular level)—and examined the impact of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment on these aging markers.

“We looked at three types of treatments used for breast cancer: endocrine therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. We found a strong association between faster biological aging and those who received radiation therapy,” said Dr. Kresovich in an institutional press release. “We hope these findings will contribute to the conversation of how best to treat and care for breast cancer survivors.”  

Among the participants, approximately half (n = 190) had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer between the two blood draws, whereas the other half (n = 227) remained cancer-free. The results revealed that women who developed breast cancer experienced diagnoses on average 3.5 years after the initial blood draw and 4 years before the second draw. After adjusting for various factors and baseline biological aging metrics, the researchers found that women diagnosed and treated for breast cancer exhibited higher biologic aging at the second blood draw compared with women who remained cancer-free.

In addition, the study delved into the association between different breast cancer therapies and biological aging. Of note, radiation therapy demonstrated strong positive associations with biological aging, as indicated by all three aging metrics.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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