According to a new study shorter length of leukocyte telomeres - chromosome markers of biological aging - is associated with an greater risk of cancer and death from the disease.
Peter Willeit, of Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria, and colleagues conducted a study wherein they measured the telomere length in 787 participants.
Analysis indicated that short telomere length at the beginning of the study was associated with new cancer independently of standard cancer risk factors.
And participants in the group with the shortest telomere length had the highest rate of cancer.
"Of note, telomere length was preferentially associated with individual cancers characterized by a high fatality rate such as gastric, lung, and ovarian cancer, but less so with tumors linked to better prognosis," the authors write.
They add that telomere length had a similar predictive value for cancer in both men and women and in various age groups.
The findings are published in July 7 issue of JAMA.