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More on Telomeres Telomerase Supplements and Cancer

I have written a ton on these topics before and I refer you to here for more background.

Briefly:

Telomeres are small segments of DNA at the end of every chromosome. They function like biologic time clocks determining when a cell will die. They are very sensitive to life style, toxins, stress, diet, supplements and nutrition, sleep deprivation and sedentary behavior.

Of the half dozen or so supplements that make claims to influence your telomere length, only TA-65 has any human data that suggests efficacy..

There is also an ongoing debate about the role of telomeres and telomerase in cancer which spills over needlessly into the supplement discussion.

Here that is in a nutshell:

Some scientists believe that telomere shortening and cell death is “anti-cancer” because a cell with short telomeres is more likely to have genetic mistakes encoded in its DNA.

Other scientists believe that restoration of telomere length may foster repair of the genome in much the same way that fixing “cancerous mitochondria” may revert the cell back to health. I am one of those and I base my feelings on the work of Maria Blasco who showed that increasing telomerase levels extended lifespan in mice without any increases in cancer incidence. I also postulate that all other areas of cellular aging had to improve such as mitochondrial function, intracellular junk clearing and epigentic marks or the animals could not have lived longer.  Sadly the study was not powered to “prove “ that but I sincerely doubt you could have an animal live longer without at least arresting those problems if not reversing them.

Almost all human cancers have short telomeres on average.  More importantly it may not take an average drop in telomere length to cause or facilitate cancer. More likely a few critically short telomeres on the “wrong” chromosome are enough.

The reason we do not yet have an answer is because the technology that is used in many studies to assay telomere length is not capable of giving us that data. As more and more people use the Life Length assay we will get more data.  At some point I hope the scientific community will universally switch over the way many anti-aging docs like me have.

Approximately 85% of human cancers deal with short telomeres by massive increases in the enzyme telomerase.  I have to say it: that means that 15% do not and they use a non-telomerase based mechanism to extend their telomeres.

This has led some people to worry about increasing telomerase with supplements.  Won’t this increase the risk of cancer or worsen a cancer if you have it?

Not likely to both statements.  Cancerous transformation is not and never has been dependent on telomerase. Once you have cancer the cancer will hijack telomerase for its own purposes to a degree that makes adding a telomerase activator inconsequential.  Indeed several clinicians have added things like TA-65 to their cancer patients’ routines to try and preserve the health of the immune system which universally takes a pounding from both cancer and cancer treatments.

This approach remains unstudied.

Here is another related observation.  First cancers beget second cancers. There is now growing evidence and interest in this linkage.  It appears that the shorter your telomeres are when you get your first cancer, the more likely you are to get a recurrence.  The problem is the timing of the studies has usually been after treatment so no one knows if the short telomeres were the result of “bad luck” as in you were born with shorter telomeres, or whether they were the result of the chemo and radiation these people got during treatment.

So we are left with a very basic notion you have heard before: Take care of your Telomeres!!!!

I offer a few options for you here:

TA-65

Telomere Edge Packs

Ultra 85 Fish Oil

I am one of those who feels very strongly about these associations and I am not willing to let a chance go by to influence them.

You must decide for yourself.

Best,

Dr Dave

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