Shorter peripheral blood telomeres are a potential biomarker for patients with advanced colorectal adenomas

Douglas L. Riegert-Johnson, Lisa A. Boardman, Julia E. Crook, Colleen S. Thomas, Ruth A. Johnson, Maegan E. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) can be prevented by the early detection and removal of advanced adenomas (AAs) by colonoscopy. Our aim was to evaluate peripheral blood leukocyte (PBL) telomere length as a potential biomarker for the presence of AAs. Methods: PBL telomere length was measured in patients with AAs (n=35), in a control group of similarly aged patients who had a normal colonoscopy (n=145) and in a separate population group with no history of cancer, again similarly aged (n=495). Telomere measurements were performed using a quantitative PCR assay and reported as ratios of telomere and single copy gene measurements. Results: Telomere lengths tended to be lower in patients with AAs than in patients in the normal colonoscopy group (p<0.001) as well as those in the population group (p=0.011). A telomere/single copy gene ratio of 0.5 was found to have an estimated 94% sensitivity and a 56% specificity for AAs; a combination of sensitivity and specificity for which a value of >0.5 would reduce the odds of a patient having AAs by a factor of 0.11 (the negative likelihood ratio). Thirty three percent of individuals in the population group tested above this cutoff and could be considered at low risk for AAs. Conclusions: PBL telomeres are shortened in patients with colorectal neoplasia, suggesting that PBL telomere length could be a promising non-invasive blood biomarker to pre-screen for risk of AAs prior to colonoscopy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e375-e380
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Markers
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Colorectal adenomas
  • Colorectal polyps
  • Telomeres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cancer Research


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