The Association of Telomere Length in Peripheral Blood Cells with Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Prospective Studies

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2017 Sep;26(9):1381-1390. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-16-0968. Epub 2017 Jun 15.


The association between telomere length (TL) in peripheral blood cells and cancer risk remains inconclusive. We carried out a meta-analysis on prospective studies. The study-specific RR estimates were first transformed to a common comparable scale and then were pooled by a random-effects model. The dataset was composed of 13,894 cases and 71,672 controls from 28 studies in 25 articles. In the comparison of the longest versus shortest third of TL, we observed a marginally positive association between longer TL and higher risk of total cancers [OR = 1.086; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.952-1.238]. Subgroup analyses showed that the association was stronger in lung cancer (n = 3; OR = 1.690; 95% CI, 1.253-2.280), in men (n = 6; OR = 1.302; 95% CI, 1.120-1.514) and in studies with more precise methods for DNA extraction (phenol-chloroform, salting-out or magnetic bead, n = 6, OR = 1.618; 95% CI, 1.320-1.985) and TL measurement (multiplex Q-PCR, n = 8; OR = 1.439; 95% CI, 1.118-1.852). Our meta-analysis suggested longer TL in peripheral blood cells is a likely risk factor for lung cancer or cancers in men. Accurate DNA extraction and TL measurement methods make it more liable to find significant associations between TL and cancer risk and thus should be taken into consideration in future epidemiologic studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 26(9); 1381-90. ©2017 AACR.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Telomere / metabolism*