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Mortality Risk Up for Those With Shortest Telomeres

Telomere length (TL) is associated with mortality, with an increased risk for those with the shortest telomeres, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics.

Catherine Schaefer, PhD, from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, and colleagues examined TL, behavioral influences, and correlation of TL with all-cause mortality following saliva sampling of more than 100,000 individuals (average age 63) in the multi-ethnic Genetic Epidemiology Research Study on Adult Health and Aging.

The researchers found that, as expected, TL correlated inversely with age, and that, with the exception of young adults, women had longer telomeres than men. TLs were significantly longer in African-Americans than other groups, with no significant differences between Asians, Latinos, and whites. In uni- and multivariate analyses, significant positive correlations were seen for TL and level of education and body mass index, while significant negative correlations were noted for cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. No correlations were observed for physical activity, or for diagnosis of major depression or stress-related disorders. Short TL correlated prospectively with mortality, with an increased risk only for those with the shortest TL; this association persisted after adjustment for multiple confounding variables.

"Although we found that shorter-than-average telomeres were prospectively associated with mortality, only those with the shortest telomeres were at increased risk of death," Schaefer said in a statement.

Source: HealthDay News