Telomere length in peripheral blood lymphocytes related to genetic variation in telomerase, prognosis and clinicopathological features in breast cancer patients

Mutagenesis. 2020 Dec 31;35(6):491-497. doi: 10.1093/mutage/geaa030.


Disruption of telomere length (TL) homeostasis in peripheral blood lymphocytes has been previously assessed as a potential biomarker of breast cancer (BC) risk. The present study addressed the relationship between lymphocyte TL (LTL), prognosis and clinicopathological features in the BC patients since these associations are insufficiently explored at present. LTL was measured in 611 BC patients and 154 healthy controls using the monochrome multiplex quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction assay. In addition, we genotyped nine TL-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms that had been identified through genome-wide association studies. Our results showed that the patients had significantly (P = 0.001, Mann-Whitney U-test) longer LTL [median (interquartile range); 1.48 (1.22-1.78)] than the healthy controls [1.27 (0.97-1.82)]. Patients homozygous (CC) for the common allele of hTERT rs2736108 or the variant allele (CC) of hTERC rs16847897 had longer LTL. The latter association remained statistically significant in the recessive genetic model after the Bonferroni correction (P = 0.004, Wilcoxon two-sample test). We observed no association between LTL and overall survival or relapse-free survival of the patients. LTL did not correlate with cancer staging based on Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), The tumor node metastasis (TNM) staging system classification, tumour grade or molecular BC subtypes. Overall, we observed an association between long LTL and BC disease and an association of the hTERC rs16847897 CC genotype with increased LTL. However, no association between LTL, clinicopathological features and survival of the patients was found.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alleles
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / pathology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / genetics
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • RNA / genetics*
  • Telomerase / genetics*
  • Telomere Homeostasis / genetics*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • telomerase RNA
  • RNA
  • TERT protein, human
  • Telomerase