Short telomeres are associated with decreased cancer survival

TelomeresAt the end of 2010, one of my least favorite journals, JAMA, published a very important and surprisingly forward-thinking (for them) article on telomere length and cancer.  The study was a large Meta-analysis of telomere length and the likelihood of getting cancer.

People were divided into “quartiles” according to telomere length. Basically, this means there were four groups, each with successively longer telomeres. Again, not surprisingly, they found the shortest group had a 500% increase in cancer incidence, versus the longest group.  The other two “middle” groups were in between, with each successively lengthening in those groups, having a lower chance of cancer. Finally, the types and aggressiveness of the cancers were noted to be much worse in the shortest group.

In summary, the shorter your telomeres, the higher the likelihood you’ll get cancer and the worse it’s likely to be.

A recent Danish study showed an association between post-cancer survival and telomere length, once again in quartile fashion. Those with the shortest telomeres were the most likely to die and those with the longest, most likely to survive.

You may wonder why I am harping on telomeres so much.  The simple answer is that not everyone is convinced they are important.  Generally speaking, the status quo is hard to change.

I got a typical email from a friend of mine that pretty much says it all.

“Hi Doc,
Hope all is well. I haven’t talked with you in while – are you still traveling around, speaking on telomeres? It’s funny… you were the first one I ever heard bring that up, now I’m reading about it everywhere. I just saw another article on it the other day…cool stuff!  Lou”

Yes, my friend, I am still out there beating the drum, fighting the naysayers and trying to help people live longer and healthier.

So, when people ask me what to do about their telomeres, I give them a 4-step process, which is listed in order of cost, since many people still value cellphone minutes above their health. You can pick and choose to do none, some, or all of it based on your priorities.

Over the coming years you will see the following: More and more evidence that telomere length is directly related to lifespan and healthspan. Occasional nay-saying articles that question or “refute” those findings. This type of article will be far fewer in number than the positive ones, but will get more press, because no one wants to hear another repetitious finding – they want controversy, because controversy sells. More and more “telomerase activators” with no proof of activity, or scant proof that is not repeated. More studies about the efficacy of TA-65.

How do I know all this? No, I am not clairvoyant, I have simply seen and heard it all before with Fish oil, the greatest supplement discovery of the last century.  TA-65 is the greatest supplement discovery of this century so far, so it stands to reason history will repeat itself.

Here’s to longer and longer telomeres!


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