Study shows potential epigenetic basis for increased health risks in firefighters

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A new study led by researchers at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zukerman College of Public Health has discovered changes in cellular systems that regulate the expression of genes, called epigenetics, that may help increase the risk of disease. including cancer in firefighters.

Jeff Burgess, MD, MS, MPH, professor of public health, led a research team that found changes in DNA methylation after several flares. The study offers a possible link between occupational accidents and adverse health outcomes.

“This is important new information for firefightersDr. Burgess said, “We know that there is a high incidence of cancer among firefighters, and this study may show us the way in which the experiences of firefighters on the job pose a health risk.”

The paper, “Repeated steps of DNA methylation in the first group of firefighters,” is published in the journal. Occupational Medicine and the Environment.

Research by Drs. Burgess has previously discovered that DNA methylation, an epigenetic regulator, responds to hazardous environmental factors including those encountered by firefighters. Epigenetic agents are mutations to DNA that control whether activated or killed cells. The results of epigenetic mutations act as biomarkers and reflect biological changes that contribute to the risk of disease and future development.

In this study, Drs. Burgess and the team got it blood sample from 50 new non-smoking firefighters before initial firefighting training and 20-37 months later. In the final samples, they found DNA methylation mutations at 680 different locations on the organism, many of which are involved in cancer-related, immune, neurological and other pathological processes including and. cardiovascular disease.

“We still do not know if these changes will lead to cancer,” said Jaclyn Goodrich, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and first author. on paper. “However, this study is an important step in understanding the biological mechanisms underlying these risks.”

The researchers found that epigenetic changes did not depend on the amount of time spent since the firefighter looked like a firefighter. In addition, one-fourth of the altered locations are related to the number of fire escapes and / or time spent in the fire since the first visit, suggesting changes indicate a fall. This is a possible epigenetic evidence under several adverse health effects firefighters face after years at work.

Diseases associated with the appearance of regular firefighting can take many years to develop, so it is difficult to measure accurately. health risks and implement appropriate prevention strategies to protect firefighters provided this long-term, the authors said.

“DNA methylation in these molecules can be promoted as a biomarker in firefighters to inform the assessment of occupational health risk in an effort to protect. fireman healthDr. Goodrich added.

In 2010, the World Cancer Research Council, part of the World Health Organization, defined firefighting as a group of 2B carcinogen, meaning it may be a cancer for humans, and research shows that killers fires are exposed to several firefighters who appear to be well-known. or possibly carcinogens.

In addition to Dr. Goodrich and Burgess, co-authors include Shawn Beitel, MSc, Melissa Furlong, Ph.D., Alesia Jung, Ph.D., and Sally Books from Zuckerman College of Public Health, John Gulotta and Darin Wallentine from Tucson Fire Department. .

Firefighters with poor sleep habits are generally unhealthy

Learn more:
Repeat the steps of DNA methylation in the first group of firefighters, Occupational Medicine and the Environment (2022). DOI: 10.1136 / oemed-2021-108153

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