Leukocyte telomere length and mortality in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2002

Epidemiology. 2015 Jul;26(4):528-35. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000299.

Abstract

Background: This study examined the association between leukocyte telomere length--a marker of cell aging--and mortality in a nationally representative sample of US adults ages 50-84 years. We also examined moderating effects of age, sex, race/ethnicity, and education.

Methods: Data were from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2002 (n = 3,091). Cox proportional hazards regression was used to estimate the risk of all-cause and cause- specific mortality adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, smoking, body mass index, and chronic conditions.

Results: Eight hundred and seventy deaths occurred over an average of 9.5 years of follow-up. In the full sample, a decrease of 1 kilobase pair in telomere length at baseline was marginally associated with a 10% increased hazard of all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.1, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.9, 1.4) and a 30% increased hazard of death due to diseases other than cardiovascular disease or cancer (HR: 1.3, 95% CI: 0.9, 1.9). Among African-American but not white or Mexican-American respondents, a decrease of 1 kilobase pair in telomere length at baseline was associated with a two-fold increased hazard of cardiovascular mortality (HR: 2.0, 95% CI: 1.3, 3.1). There was no association between telomere length and cancer mortality.

Conclusions: The association between leukocyte telomere length and mortality differs by race/ethnicity and cause of death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / ethnology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • United States / epidemiology