Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 77–82 | Cite as

Leukocyte telomere length in a population-based case–control study of ovarian cancer: a pilot study

  • Lisa Mirabello
  • Montserrat Garcia-Closas
  • Richard Cawthon
  • Jolanta Lissowska
  • Louise A. Brinton
  • Beata Pepłońska
  • Mark E. Sherman
  • Sharon A. Savage
Original paper



Telomeres are structures at chromosome ends that contribute to maintaining genomic integrity. Telomere shortening with repeated cell divisions may lead to genomic instability and carcinogenesis. Studies suggest that shorter telomeres in constitutional DNA are associated with bladder, breast, lung, and renal cancer. Ovarian cancer tissues also have shortened telomeres and increased telomerase activity, suggesting that telomere abnormalities may be related to ovarian cancer.


We investigated leukocyte telomere length in 99 women with serous ovarian adenocarcinoma and 100 age-matched cancer-free controls enrolled in a population-based case–control study.


Cases tended to have shorter telomeres than controls (P wilcoxon = 0.002). Compared to subjects with telomere lengths in the longest tertile, those in the middle and shortest tertiles showed respective age-adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) of 2.69 (1.23–5.88) and 3.39 (1.54–7.46) (P trend = 0.002). Strongest associations were found for subjects with poorly differentiated carcinomas (OR = 4.89, 95% CI 1.93–12.34).


This study shows that short leukocyte telomeres are associated with serous ovarian adenocarcinoma. These findings should be confirmed in large, prospective studies.


Ovarian cancer Telomere length Case–control study Epidemiology 



We are grateful to Drs. Mark H. Greene and Phuong Mai of the National Cancer Institute for helpful comments. We thank Neonila Szeszenia-Dabrowska from the Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Lodz, Poland and Witold Zatonski from the Sklodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology and Cancer Center, Warsaw, Poland for their contributions to the study design and conduct; Anita Soni (Westat, Rockville, MD) for her work on study management for the Polish ovarian cancer study; Pei Chao (IMS, Silver Spring, MD) for her work on data and sample management; and physicians, nurses, interviewers and study participants for their efforts during field work. This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics and the Center for Cancer Research; National Institutes of Health (grant CA82838); and American Cancer Society (Grant RSG-00-061-04-CCE).


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Copyright information

© US Government 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Mirabello
    • 1
  • Montserrat Garcia-Closas
    • 1
  • Richard Cawthon
    • 2
  • Jolanta Lissowska
    • 3
  • Louise A. Brinton
    • 1
  • Beata Pepłońska
    • 4
  • Mark E. Sherman
    • 1
  • Sharon A. Savage
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human ServicesBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human GeneticsUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Cancer Epidemiology and PreventionThe M. Sklodowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Center and Institute of OncologyWarsawPoland
  4. 4.Department of Occupational and Environmental EpidemiologyNofer Institute of Occupational MedicineLodzPoland
  5. 5.Clinical Genetics Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer InstituteRockvilleUSA

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