Early life socioeconomic factors and genomic DNA methylation in mid-life

Parisa Tehranifar, Hui Chen Wu, Xiaozhou Fan, Julie D. Flom, Jennifer S. Ferris, Yoon Hee Cho, Karina Gonzalez, Regina M. Santella, Mary Beth Terry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Epigenetic modifications may be one mechanism linking early life factors, including parental socioeconomic status (SES), to adult onset disease risk. However, SES influences on DNA methylation patterns remain largely unknown. In a US birth cohort of women, we examined whether indicators of early life and adult SES were associated with white blood cell methylation of repetitive elements (Sat2, Alu and LINE-1) in adulthood. Low family income at birth was associated with higher Sat2 methylation (β = 19.7, 95% CI: 0.4, 39.0 for lowest vs. highest income quartile) and single parent family was associated with higher Alu methylation (β = 23.5, 95% CI: 2.6, 44.1), after adjusting for other early life factors. Lower adult education was associated with lower Sat2 methylation (β = -16.7, 95% CI: -29.0, -4.5). There were no associations between early life SES and LINE-1 methylation. Overall, our preliminary results suggest possible influences of SES across the lifecourse on genomic DNA methylation in adult women. However, these preliminary associations need to be replicated in larger prospective studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-27
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Adult genomic DNA methylation
  • Birth cohort
  • Early life
  • Lifecourse
  • Socioeconomic status


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