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Telomere Molecular Epidemiology

Telomeres, specialized structures consisting of long DNA nucleotide repeats and a protein complex, are designed to protect the ends of chromosomes and are critical to chromosome stability. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres lose a small amount of DNA and become shorter. Eventually, telomeres become critically short, causing cellular senescence or cellular crisis, which result in apoptosis, genomic instability or a reduction in cellular lifespan. If cells bypass natural processes and continue to divide despite the presence of genomic instability, cancer can develop. DCEG investigators have been studying telomeres and their associations with cancer risk. Types of studies include: