Lengthen your telomeres this week

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For journal club last week, I selected an article that looks at length of telomeres as a prognostic variable for prostate cancer. Telomeres are DNA protein complexes that are added to the tips of chromosomes by an enzyme, telomerase, that carries its own little RNA unit and was involved in one of the authors (Elizabeth Blackburn) of the story below winning a Nobel prize. As you get older, the length of your telomeres shortens, eventually giving rise to loss of important chromosomal information that can lead to cancer. In the journal club article, it was found that men who had shorter and more variable telomere length in their prostate cancer or the surrounding tissue, had a higher chance of developing metastases or dying from their disease. Of course this is bad news, and you might think there is nothing you can do about it. Not so fast….

Blackburn and her colleagues at UCSF have been studying men with prostate cancer to see if exercise and diet can influence telomere length. In a 2008 study, they found that peripheral blood cells had increased telomerase after 3 months of improved diet and exercise intervention. In their most recent study, they find that the continuation of the diet/exercise program results in actual increases in the telomere length in the peripheral blood cells. Since these are men with low risk prostate cancer who are being followed on a study with active surveillance, we will also be learning how such improved life style affects other genetic changes in serial biopsies of the cancers.

For now, the bet is that (as usual) you will benefit from increasing your exercise program, dropping red meat from your diet, and probably watching less football and doing more hiking this week with your family as you celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m just saying….

2 Comments

Filed under General Prostate Cancer Issues

2 responses to “Lengthen your telomeres this week

  1. All sorts of things are impacted by telomere length, even it seems susceptibility to the common cold: http://naturalmedicinejournal.com/article_content.asp?article=431

    It also seems than no shortage of things that we think of as ‘good for you’ increase telomere length.
    For example, short sleep yields short telomere: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23144701

    Or big stress and short telomeres:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24189343

    Or a good diet increases length:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23711776

    Measuring telomeres gives us a quantifiable way to argue that the things we’ve always known are good for people, are indeed true.

    It’s all kind of true. Now if only running the test was affordable.

  2. David Lacey

    Thanks. You might find this short report from Dr. Greger interesting. I’m persuaded we’re going to have to move away from the belief that fish is good for you. David Lacey

    Research Into Reversing Aging | NutritionFacts.org: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/research-into-reversing-aging/#.UpN_qSZ84jU.twittervia @nutrition_facts

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