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Shorter telomere length is associated with increased ovarian cancer risk in both familial and sporadic cases


Background Alterations in telomere maintenance mechanisms leading to short telomeres underlie different genetic disorders of ageing and cancer predisposition syndromes. It is known that short telomeres and subsequent genomic instability contribute to malignant transformation, and it is therefore likely that people with shorter telomeres are at higher risk for different types of cancer. Recently, the authors demonstrated that the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are modifiers of telomere length (TL) in familial breast cancer. The present study analysed TL in peripheral blood leucocytes of hereditary and sporadic ovarian cancer cases, as well as in female controls, to evaluate whether TL contributes to ovarian cancer risk.

Methods TL was measured by quantitative PCR in 178 sporadic and 168 hereditary ovarian cases (46 BRCA1, 12 BRCA2, and 110 BRCAX) and compared to TL in 267 controls.

Results Both sporadic and hereditary cases showed significantly shorter age adjusted TLs than controls. Unconditional logistic regression analysis revealed an association between TL and ovarian cancer risk with a significant interaction with age (p<0.001). Risk was higher in younger women and progressively decreased with age, with the highest OR observed in women under 30 years of age (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.34 to 1.81; p=1.0×10−18).

Conclusion These findings indicate that TL could be a risk factor for early onset ovarian cancer.

  • Ovarian cancer
  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
  • Telomeres
  • risk factors
  • case-control study
  • cancer: breast
  • genome-wide
  • genetics
  • microarray
  • microRNA
  • genetic epidemiology
  • thyroid disease
  • clinical genetics
  • diagnostics
  • genetic screening/counselling
  • dermatology
  • cancer: endocrine
  • oncology
  • molecular genetics
  • cancer: head and neck
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