Leukocyte Telomere Length and Pancreatic Cancer Risk: Updated Epidemiologic Review


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Abstract

Many risk factors have been firmly established for pancreatic cancer (PC), but the molecular processes by which known risk factors influence susceptibility to PC are not clear. There has been a recent upsurge of interest in the role of telomere length (TL), the protective DNA sequence repeats at chromosome ends, in pancreatic carcinogenesis. Given this heightened interest, we performed an in-depth, focused, and up-to-date review of the epidemiological evidence linking leukocyte TL (LTL) with PC risk. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Library databases for all published studies on LTL and PC risk, up to May 2017. Five studies were identified for review: 4 nested case-control studies and 1 retrospective case-control study. Two studies found opposite associations between LTL and PC risk: 1 found a dose-response positive association and the other found a dose-response inverse association. Two studies also found a “U-shaped” association, whereas another reported a weak nonlinear relationship. We offer potential reasons for the conflicting findings including variation in study design, biospecimen characteristics, and differences in interlaboratory measurements of TL. Future studies should carefully control for risk factors of PC that are associated also with telomere attrition and investigate the role of genetic variation in TL maintenance.

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