Even though I recently released a blog that looks specifically at prostate cancer and the effect of telomere length on prognosis, I mentioned breast cancer in that blog as another form of hormonally driven cancer that shares many features behaviorally with prostate cancer.
The ink on that blog had barely dried when yet another study came out that reinforces the same basic message: short telomeres are an increased risk for cancer.
So let’s get to a few basics and then look at the “new” information.
1) Telomeres are found at the end of the chromosome. They are relatively short segments of repetitive DNA. They have a protein complex attached to them that shelters them from damage and controls access to them. This is called “Shelterin”
2) Telomeres function as a cellular time clock keeping track of how many times a cell has divided making new cells and how many divisions it has left. When the time runs out that cell is removed and either dies or goes into “park” for a while and dies a bit later.
3) Both of the events in #2 involve inflammation and can cause damage to the surrounding cells. This process occurs more frequently as we age giving rise to the statement “aging is an inflammatory event!” Some researchers have called these dying cells “Zombie Cells” because they are dead and dying but also kill other healthy cells in their area.
4) Telomerase is the enzyme that lengthens telomeres. As far as we know activating telomerase is the only feasible way to extend life span in complex mammals. Immortal non cancerous human cell lines have been created by turning on telomerase.
5) Cancer hijacks telomerase and massively over expresses it to keep cancer cells alive and “immortal” at least until the host (hopefully not YOU!) dies.
6) In most cases of cancer the induction of huge increases in telomerase is thought to be the “last step” in the transformation of cancer into a malignant immortal cell. This means that there are several other mutations or missteps that have to happen first. It also raises questions about the real effects of blocking telomerase as an anti-cancer therapy since all of the other steps are not blocked in this therapy and could give rise to other cancer cells that are immortal using other methods of telomere lengthening (ALT).
OK now onto the “new” information and I put it in quotes because there have been at least half a dozen scientific articles that have said this before. But that is the way science is and in most cases should be. It requires a lot of repetition and validation from the community before it is accepted.
One of the things that you may already know about breast cancer is that there is a hereditary component. The BRAC1 and BRAC2 genes have gotten a lot of press lately as more than one famous actress has had bilateral mastectomies and other operations to protect from the high risk of breast cancer associated with these genes.
But you should also know that hereditary breast cancer accounts for only 10% of breast cancers and the famous BRAC genes account for a little over half of this total. That means that 90% of breast cancers are not hereditary but more likely the result of “acquired” genomic instabilities that happen during life as a result of toxins, stresses both physical and mental and of course bad luck in the form of mistakes in DNA replication.
The one thing that hereditary breast cancers and non hereditary breast cancers have in common is an unstable genome the hall mark of which is an unnaturally short telomere. This may actually the difference between getting cancer (remember between 15 and 45% of BRAC positive women do not ever get breast cancer) and not; no one is 100% sure.
But it is a very suggestive association since non hereditary breast cancers also have short telomeres as a risk factor.
As a matter of fact nearly every major form of cancer that has been studied has an association with critically shortened telomeres and the genomic instability that comes with that condition. Numerous other conditions associated with “normal aging” including Alzheimer disease, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis are also associated with short telomeres.
Clinical trials to treat these illnesses with telomerase activation are going on or being planned as we speak.
In the meantime know that the only safe human tested telomerase activator is TA-65. I have been able to document over 3% reduction in my critically short telomere values and over 4 years a 600 base pair lengthening of my average telomere length using the “gold standard” Life Length assay, using this product in conjunction with high dose Omega 3’s (which I have used for over 10 years so it’s not likely they started working all of a sudden!) and the life style modifications detailed in our book, “The Immortality Edge”.
Because neither the government nor Big Pharma has any vested interest in anti-aging therapy the typical types of studies we have been inundated with for drugs like statins and blood pressure medicines are slow to come. Private funding is being put to work, some of it is mine, but it is not the hundreds of millions of dollars that large corporations have. Now that Google is on board we’ll see if they can jump start the campaign.
In the meantime you may want to take a close look at my other blogs and sign up for my newsletters because I have been talking about this stuff for a long time now. And during that time I have managed to grow younger!