European researchers report in JAMA this week the results of a clinical study, which implicate "a statistically significant inverse relationship between telomere length and both cancer incidence and mortality." In a patient cohort of 787, "short telomere length at baseline was associated with incident cancer independently of standard cancer risk factors," the authors write; 92 participants went on to develop cancer. Cancer incidence rates were 5.1 per 1,000 person-years in the longest telomere group and 22.5 per 1,000 person-years in the shortest telomere group. Short telomeres were also associated with cancer mortality, the authors write, particularly in individual cancer subtypes.
Stefan Kiechl, a study co-author, tells HealthDay News that "there are extensive research efforts at the moment to identify conditions — like lifestyle features — that promote or counteract telomere shortening, and this knowledge should be important for future primary prevention of cancer."