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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Public Health

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Richard J. Wood

Second Advisor

Zhenhua Liu

Third Advisor

Kathleen Arcaro

Subject Categories

Molecular, Genetic, and Biochemical Nutrition | Nutrition


Epigenetics is the study of the regulation of genes that is not dependent on nucleotide sequence. This may include heritable changes in gene activity and expression but also those that are not heritable. In recent years, epigenetic researchers have made great strides in understanding the molecular mechanisms behind cellular functions in response to diet, exercise, and other lifestyle modifications, like methylation, histone modification etc. It is now known that the epigenome is critical to healthy human development in addition to genetics, and dietary factors can modulate epigenetic alterations in cells. The classic view of cancer etiology is that genetic alterations damage DNA structure and induce mutated proteins (oncogenes) that lead to disease progression. More recently, the role of epigenetic alterations during development and chronic disease development has gained increasing attention. This caused a paradigm shift in our understanding of possible mechanisms leading to disease susceptibility. Epidemiological studies have revealed an inverse correlation between the intake of cruciferous vegetables and the risk of certain types of cancer [1]. There has also been evidence, from various epidemiological studies, of higher intake or blood levels of vitamin D and its association with a reduced risk of colorectal and breast cancer [2]. Thus, there is evidence that both higher intake of cruciferous vegetable and better vitamin D status are associated with a reduced risk of cancer. The primary focus of my dissertation is the manipulation of histone modification via dietary agents like vitamin D and sulforaphane in human colorectal and breast cancer cell lines with a review of the current literature focusing on vitamin D and breast cancer.