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Br J Cancer. 2007 Dec 17;97(12):1696-700. Epub 2007 Nov 13.

Is telomere length in peripheral blood lymphocytes correlated with cancer susceptibility or radiosensitivity?

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1Medical and Molecular Genetics Department, Guy's Hospital, London SE1 9RT, UK.


Mean terminal restriction fragment (TRF) lengths in white blood cells (WBCs) have been previously found to be associated with breast cancer. To assess whether this marker could be used as a test for breast cancer susceptibility in women, TRF length was measured in 72 treated female breast cancer patients and 1696 unaffected female controls between the ages of 45 and 77 from the Twin Research Unit at St Thomas' Hospital, as well as 140 newly diagnosed breast cancer cases and 108 mammographically screened unaffected controls from Guy's Hospital. Mean TRF was also tested for correlation with chromosome radiosensitivity and apoptotic response in the Guy's Hospital patients. After adjusting for age, smoking and body mass index, there was no significant difference in TRF lengths between the treated breast cancer patients and unaffected controls (P=0.71). A positive correlation between age-adjusted apoptotic response and mean TRF in newly diagnosed untreated breast cancer patients (P=0.008) was identified but no significant difference in TRF lengths between breast cancer patients and unaffected controls was detected (P=0.53). This suggests that TRF lengths in WBC, is not a marker of breast cancer susceptibility and does not vary significantly between affected women before and after treatment.

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