Repeat measures of DNA methylation in an inception cohort of firefighters

Jaclyn M. Goodrich, Alesia M. Jung, Melissa A. Furlong, Shawn Beitel, Sally Littau, John Gulotta, Darin Wallentine, Jefferey L. Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives Firefighters face exposures associated with adverse health outcomes including risk for multiple cancers. DNA methylation, one type of epigenetic regulation, provides a potential mechanism linking occupational hazards to adverse health outcomes. We hypothesised that DNA methylation profiles would change in firefighters after starting their service and that these patterns would be associated with occupational exposures (cumulative fire-hours and fire-runs). Methods We profiled DNA methylation with the Infinium MethylationEPIC in blood leucocytes at two time points in non-smoking new recruits: prior to live fire training and 20-37 months later. Linear mixed effects models adjusted for potential confounders were used to identify differentially methylated CpG sites over time using data from 50 individuals passing all quality control. Results We report 680 CpG sites with altered methylation (q value <0.05) including 60 with at least a 5% methylation difference at follow-up. Genes with differentially methylated CpG sites were enriched in biological pathways related to cancers, neurological function, cell signalling and transcription regulation. Next, linear mixed effects models were used to determine associations between occupational exposures with methylation at the 680 loci. Of these, more CpG sites were associated with fire-runs (108 for all and 78 for structure-fires only, q<0.05) than with fire-hours (27 for all fires and 1 for structure fires). These associations were independent of time since most recent fire, suggesting an impact of cumulative exposures. Conclusions Overall, this study provides evidence that DNA methylation may be altered by fireground exposures, and the impact of this change on disease development should be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)656-663
Number of pages8
JournalOccupational and environmental medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 24 2022


  • epidemiology
  • firefighters
  • longitudinal studies
  • occupational Health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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