Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences that stabilize the ends of chromosomes. Critically short telomeres are thought to contribute to cancer development by increasing chromosomal instability. We hypothesized that shorter leukocyte telomere length, a surrogate for inherited prostate cell telomere length, would be associated with increased risk of prostate cancer in hereditary prostate cancer (HPC) families.
One hundred twelve affected and 63 unaffected men from 28 families were drawn from the Johns Hopkins HPC family database. Relative mean telomere length was measured in isolated peripheral leukocyte DNA by quantitative PCR. Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate the association between quartile of age-adjusted telomere length and prostate cancer.
Men in the shortest quartile of telomere length did not have increased odds of prostate cancer compared to men in the other three quartiles (OR = 0.84, 95% CI: 0.32-2.20, P = 0.73). However, when the analysis was restricted to affected men with blood drawn before or within a year of diagnosis (N = 39) and all unaffected men, shorter telomere length was moderately associated with increased odds of prostate cancer (OR = 3.55, 95% CI: 0.82-15.43, P = 0.09).
Though we found no association overall, shorter leukocyte telomere length may be associated with increased odds of prostate cancer when measured in pre-diagnostic samples. Further prospective research is warranted exploring the utility of telomere length as a prostate cancer biomarker.