Longitudinal changes in leukocyte telomere length and mortality in elderly Swedish men

Aging (Albany NY). 2018 Oct 29;10(10):3005-3016. doi: 10.18632/aging.101611.


Telomere length (TL) is considered an indicator of aging and age-related diseases, but longitudinal studies on TL changes and mortality are few. We therefore analyzed TL and longitudinal changes in TL in relation to all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality in 247 elderly Swedish men. TL was determined by the qPCR method at ages 71 and 81 and subsequent mortality cases were identified from the Swedish cause-of-death registry. Cox proportional hazard ratios were calculated during a mean follow-up of 7.4 years, during which 178 deaths occurred. Short telomeres at baseline was strongly associated with mortality risks, with a 40 to 70% increased risk of all-cause mortality, and a 2-fold increased risk of cancer mortality. Longitudinal changes in TL revealed shortening in 83% of individuals, whilst 10% extended their telomeres. TL attrition did not predict all-cause or cancer mortality, but we found a 60% decreased risk for cardiovascular mortality in those who shortened their telomeres. Our data show an increased risk of mortality in individuals with short baseline telomeres, but no relations to all-cause, and cancer mortality for changes in TL. Intriguingly, our data indicate lower risk of cardiovascular mortality with shortening of telomeres. The latter should be interpreted cautiously.

Keywords: cause-specific mortality; cohort study; longitudinal changes; mortality; telomere length.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Cause of Death
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Telomere Shortening*
  • Telomere*
  • Time Factors