Scientists unveiled findings on Monday demonstrating the connection between the length of telomeres and risk of cancer—research that could pinpoint people who might be at greater risk.
Telomeres are protective caps on chromosomes that formed by repeated sequences of DNA. They get shorter each time a cell divides. Without them, scientists say chromosomes can fuse together and cells can malfunction.
Now, researchers say the length of telomeres can be used to predict the risk of cancer. It’s a breakthrough that could lead to possible cancer therapies, according to a statement published in Medical Xpress.
Research led by scientists from University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute found that participants with the longest telomeres had 33 percent higher odds of developing any cancer, but specific risks varied depending on the telomere length.
Both the shortest and longest telomeres proved to increase the risk for leukemia, bladder and stomach cancer. An outlier was liver cancer. Longer telomeres lowered the percentages of developing that specific type. Those in the same group, though, were 2.6 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than participants with the shortest telomeres.