Telomere length in human white blood cells remains constant with age and is shorter in breast cancer patients

Tally Levy, Irina Agoulnik, E. Neely Atkinson, Xiao Wen Tong, Heike M. Gause, Annette Hasenburg, Ingo B. Runnebaum, Elmar Stickeler, Volker J. Möbus, Alan L. Kaplan, Dirk G. Kieback

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Telomeres, which are TTAGGG repeats at the end of the eukaryotic chromosome, are essential for complete DNA replication. Telomere length has been reported to decrease in peripheral WBC, unlike the telomerase activity found in these cells. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether telomere length in WBC is indeed age dependent and could serve as a genetic marker in breast or ovarian cancer. Methods: Five age groups: 20-29; 30-39; 4049; 50-59 and ≤ 60 years were examined. The cancer patients were 18 women with ovarian cancer and 18 women with breast cancer. Southern blot analysis of the DNA from peripheral white blood cells (WBC) was performed using 32P-labeled (TTAGGG)3 probe. Blots were scanned in a phosphoimager and analyzed by computer-assisted image analysis. Results: No statistically significant correlation was observed between telomere length and age in either healthy females or cancer patients. However, significantly shorter median telomere length was found in WBC obtained from breast cancer patients as compared to healthy individuals and ovarian cancer patients. Conclusions: It is concluded that telomere length in WBC is not age dependen, but is significantly shorter in breast cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1345-1349
Number of pages5
JournalAnticancer Research
Issue number3 A
StatePublished - May 1998


  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Telomere length

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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