Background:

Self-reported information may not accurately capture smoking exposure. We aimed to evaluate whether smoking-associated DNA methylation markers improve urothelial cell carcinoma (UCC) risk prediction.

Methods:

Conditional logistic regression was used to assess associations between blood-based methylation and UCC risk using two matched case–control samples: 404 pairs from the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study (MCCS) and 440 pairs from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) cohort. Results were pooled using fixed-effects meta-analysis. We developed methylation-based predictors of UCC and evaluated their prediction accuracy on two replication data sets using the area under the curve (AUC).

Results:

The meta-analysis identified associations (P < 4.7 × 10−5) for 29 of 1,061 smoking-associated methylation sites, but these were substantially attenuated after adjustment for self-reported smoking. Nominally significant associations (P < 0.05) were found for 387 (36%) and 86 (8%) of smoking-associated markers without/with adjustment for self-reported smoking, respectively, with same direction of association as with smoking for 387 (100%) and 79 (92%) markers. A Lasso-based predictor was associated with UCC risk in one replication data set in MCCS [N = 134; odds ratio per SD (OR) = 1.37; 95% CI, 1.00–1.90] after confounder adjustment; AUC = 0.66, compared with AUC = 0.64 without methylation information. Limited evidence of replication was found in the second testing data set in WHI (N = 440; OR = 1.09; 95% CI, 0.91–1.30).

Conclusions:

Combination of smoking-associated methylation marks may provide some improvement to UCC risk prediction. Our findings need further evaluation using larger data sets.

Impact:

DNA methylation may be associated with UCC risk beyond traditional smoking assessment and could contribute to some improvements in stratification of UCC risk in the general population.

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