How Your Personal ‘Age Gap’ Relates to Your Cancer Risk

How old are you really? Scientists have invented a way to measure it more accurately than just looking at the calendar: Epigenetic age is a new way to measure your biological age. When your biological (epigenetic) age is older than your chronological age, you are at increased risk for getting and dying of cancer.

And the bigger the difference between the two ages, the higher your risk of dying of cancer.

“This could become a new early warning sign of cancer,” says Lifang Hou, who led the study and is chief of cancer epidemiology and prevention in preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“The discrepancy between the two ages appears to be a promising tool that could be used to develop an early detection blood test for cancer,” adds Hou.

A person’s epigenetic age is calculated based on an algorithm measuring 71 blood DNA methylation markers that could be modified by a person’s environment, including environmental chemicals, obesity, exercise, and diet. This test is not commercially available but is currently being studied by academic researchers.

“People who are healthy have a very small difference between their epigenetic/biological age and chronological age,” Hou says. “People who develop cancer have a large difference and people who die from cancer have a difference even larger than that. Our evidence showed a clear trend.”

In DNA methylation, a cluster of molecules attaches to a gene and makes the gene more or less receptive to biochemical signals from the body. The gene itself—your DNA code—does not change.

What are the risks of cancer and how accurately can they calculate them? Continue reading to learn…