Alcoholics show reduced telomere length in the oesophagus

J Pathol. 2011 Feb;223(3):410-6. doi: 10.1002/path.2817. Epub 2010 Nov 23.


Telomeres are repetitive G-rich DNA sequences located at the ends of chromosomes. Chromosomal and genomic instability due to telomere dysfunction plays an important role in carcinogenesis. To study telomere shortening in the oesophageal epithelium of alcoholics, we measured the telomere lengths of basal and parabasal cells in comparison with those of non-alcoholics using Q-FISH and our original software, Tissue Telo, and also assessed histological inflammation. Telomeres in basal cells were significantly shorter in alcoholics than in age-matched normal controls. Prominent histological findings of chronic inflammation were not evident in either alcoholics or non-alcoholics. Our finding that telomeres in the oesophageal epithelium are shorter in alcoholics than in non-alcoholics indicates that telomere shortening may be associated with the frequent occurrence of squamous cell carcinoma in alcoholics. Further studies to clarify the reason for the large annual loss of telomere length with rapid turnover or lower telomerase activity in the oesophageal epithelium of alcoholics will be necessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / pathology
  • Biopsy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Esophagoscopy
  • Esophagus / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology
  • Telomere / pathology*