Telomere length and risk of melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma

Gabriella M Anic, Vernon K Sondak, Jane L Messina, Neil A Fenske, Jonathan S Zager, Basil S Cherpelis, Ji-Hyun Lee, William J Fulp, Pearlie K Epling-Burnette, Jong Y Park, Dana E Rollison
Cancer Epidemiology 2013, 37 (4): 434-9

BACKGROUND: Telomeres help maintain chromosomal structure and may influence tumorigenesis. We examined the association between telomere length and skin cancer in a clinic-based case-control study of 198 melanoma cases, 136 squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cases, 185 basal cell carcinoma (BCC) cases, and 372 healthy controls.

METHODS: Cases were histologically confirmed patients treated at the Moffitt Cancer Center and University of South Florida Dermatology Clinic in Tampa, FL. Controls self-reported no history of cancer and underwent a skin cancer screening exam at study enrollment to rule out the presence of skin cancer. Quantitative real time PCR was used to measure telomere length in peripheral blood samples.

RESULTS: Melanoma patients had longer telomeres than controls (odds ratio (OR)=3.75; 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.02-6.94 for highest versus lowest tertile) (P for trend=<0.0001). In contrast, longer telomere length was significantly inversely associated with SCC (OR=0.01; 95% CI: 0.00-0.05 for highest versus lowest tertile) (P for trend=<0.0001) and BCC (OR=0.10; 95% CI: 0.06-0.19 for highest versus lowest tertile) (P for trend=<0.0001).

CONCLUSION: Telomere length may be involved in the development of skin cancer, although the effect on cancer risk differs for melanoma and non-melanoma carcinomas. Our findings suggest that long telomere length is positively associated with melanoma while inversely associated with SCC and BCC.

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