Aim: Neoplastic transformation provides one of the few existing opportunities to analyze molecular changes in real time during the initiation and progression of breast cancer. Materials & methods: Human mammary epithelial cells underwent neoplastic reprogramming, generating one line of semitransformed, premalignant cells and two separate, temporal lines of fully transformed human mammary epithelial cells (THMECs). An Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation27 BeadChip was used to analyze DNA methylation alterations in 27,578 CpG loci at three consecutive time points over an 80-day (d) transformation period. Results: The mean β value for semitransformed human mammary epithelial cells CpG loci (0.245) was much greater than for either THMEC-40d (0.055) or THMEC-80d (0.066), indicating a large loss of methylation after neoplastic induction. In addition, 54% of CpG loci were hypermethylated during the THMEC-40d to THMEC-80d transition. We observed that the CpG loci exhibiting DNA methylation changes during early oncogenesis were enriched for biological functions like cellular movement; this was distinctly different than in the later, more progressive stages of the transformation process enriched for processes involving differentiation. Conclusion: The timing of major methylomic changes may be important in directing the cell toward a more cancerous phenotype. In addition, gene-specific hypermethylation appears to silence developmentally related genes, leading to dedifferentiation. © 2013 Future Medicine Ltd.