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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 Apr;120(3):769-75. doi: 10.1007/s10549-009-0440-z. Epub 2009 Jun 19.

Telomere length in blood cells and breast cancer risk: investigations in two case-control studies.

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  • 1Cancer Genetics and Epidemiology Program, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, USA.


Telomere dysfunction, which leads to genomic instability, is hypothesized to play a causal role in the development of breast cancer. However, the few epidemiologic studies that assessed the relationship between telomere length in blood cells and breast cancer risk have been inconsistent. We conducted two case-control studies to further understand the role of telomere length and breast cancer risk. Overall telomere lengths were measured by telomere quantitative fluorescent in situ hybridization (TQ-FISH) and telomere quantitative real-time PCR (TQ-PCR). The associations between telomere length in blood leukocytes and risk of breast cancer were examined in two breast cancer case-control studies that were conducted at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC). Using the 50th percentile value in controls as a cut point, women who had shorter telomere length were not at significantly increased risk of breast cancer compared with women who had longer telomere length in the RPCI study (odds ratio [OR] = 1.34, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.84-2.12), in the LCCC study (OR = 1.18, 95% CI = 0.73-1.91), or in the combined RPCI and LCCC studies (OR = 1.23, 95% CI = 0.89-1.71). There was no significant dose-response relationship across quartiles of telomere length and no significant difference when comparing women in the lowest to highest quartile of telomere length. Overall telomere length in blood leukocytes was not significantly associated with the risk of breast cancer.

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