A big part of being able to stop cancer could be in predicting it before it begins. Could telomeres be that predictor?
“A distinct pattern of changes in blood telomeres appears to predict cancer years before diagnosis. This was the result of a new study believed to be the first to follow what happens to the protective ends of DNA strands over time in people who go on to develop cancer.
They found blood telomeres age faster and then stop aging for a few years in the period leading up to a cancer diagnosis.
Lead author Lifang Hou, associate professor in Preventive Medicine – Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says:
‘Understanding this pattern of telomere growth may mean it can be a predictive biomarker for cancer.’
For their study, the researchers measured telomere length several times over a 13-year period in 792 people. One hundred and thirty-five of the participants eventually developed various cancers, including leukemia, and prostate, skin and lung cancer.
The telomeres of the participants who were later diagnosed with cancer aged much faster – that is they shortened more rapidly – in the first few years.
In the participants who developed cancer, the telomeres looked as much as 15 years older than those of the participants who did not develop cancer. But what was surprising was that the accelerated aging stopped 3-4 years before cancer diagnosis. Prof. Hou adds:
‘Because we saw a strong relationship in the pattern across a wide variety of cancers, with the right testing these procedures could be used to eventually diagnose a wide variety of cancers.'” – Medical News Today