More on telomeres and cancer

I wanted to give you a brief but exciting follow up to my recent article on telomeres and cancer. I swear I had no idea that JAMA would release an article in the traditional medical press proving every single thing I said, but it happened. (JAMA. 2010;304 (1):69-75. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.897)

It is refreshing to see how fast “traditional” medicine is coming around to nontraditional views. Those of you who read my article posted a while back understand my view on telomeres and cancer.

The following sums it up:

1) Cancer is a disease of short telomeres.

2) Cancer is a disease of a faulty immune system.

3) 1 and 2 are intimately related, as short telomeres in the immune cells create a condition known as “Immunosenescence” or literally “an old immune system.”

4) Long telomeres signify a healthy cell with intact genetic material.

5) Short telomeres signify an “old cell” that is more likely to mutate. The telomeres are part of the “guardianship” mechanism by which cells remove themselves from the cellular pool. Long telomered cells do not need to be removed, at least not for genetic reasons (you could still have massive trauma to the cell).

6) The difference between the shortest telomere group and the longer telomere group was a 400% greater incidence of cancer in the short group. The “severity”, judged by how many people died, was also much higher in the short telomere group!

I was both happy and shocked to see an article relating telomere length to cancer, morbidity and mortality (sickness and death) in a traditional medical journal because it represents a radical departure from their old thinking and means more research really WILL be done.

If you have been following the writings, then you will not be surprised by what they found. Short telomeres are associated with cancer, long telomeres far less so. And it is proportionate, meaning the longer your telomeres, the less likely you are to get cancer.

Keeping your telomeres healthy is about two things, mainly. A) Slowing down the loss and that is what the bulk of our book, “The Immortality Edge” is about, and B) adding length, which we know for sure improves your immune system response and probably a lot of other things!

That is the sole domain of TA-65. These are exciting times to be alive and to look ahead to more health and more life!


Note: the above is not meant to suggest that we have a cure or prevention for cancer. It is only meant to tell you where we are at with telomere biology and cancer.

As per your requests from my last article I’ll have more out for you very soon! Just let me know if you want more please and I will put pen to paper.

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Dr. David Woynarowski

Dr. Dave Woynarowski, MD, was born in the 1950s in the heart of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Raised in a family of doctors and scientists, “Dr. Dave” continued the tradition, graduating from Temple Medical School in the 1980s, after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Pennsylvania with a dual major in Biology and English.

After completing his Residency in Internal Medicine, Dr. Dave passed the Internal Medicine Boards and joined his father who had been practicing Family Medicine for three decades.

Dr. Dave later embarked on a worldwide pursuit, researching the best-of-the-best in anti-aging medicine. His exhaustive search has made him one of the foremost authorities is preventative health, anti-aging, and nutritional supplements. For example, he may have more scientific research in his medical library on the health benefits of pharmaceutical grade fish oil than any other person in the world. In addition to study and research, Dr. Dave began the development of a new category of nutritional supplements, formulated from his expertise as a physician, and made from only pharmaceutical-grade ingredients.

"“I traveled the globe for many years, searching the four corners of the earth and left no stone unturned,” says Dr. Dave. “What I found is that most people can be significantly healthier through the use of high quality, properly formulated supplements. The problem was that most of the available products did not use a high enough grade of active ingredients, or did not combine the correct amount of ingredients for a multiple-pronged rather than a single-focus approach to the issue. So I developed Dr. Dave’s Best to meet the need."

Dr. Dave is also co-author of "The Immortality Edge" a book dedicated to teaching everyone about the newest hottest field in anti-aging technology, Telomere Biology and giving practical proven advice for better health and a longer life that everyone can use RIGHT NOW!

Dr. David Woynarowski

Latest posts by Dr. David Woynarowski (see all)

Please let us know what you think about this article. All comments will be moderated before being posted publicly.


  1. Sam McPherson says

    Dr. Dave,
    Please give us more information on lengthening telomeres. I have read Dr. Al Sears articles, and wish I could afford his onsite treatment — but alas, I cannot.

    SM, 70, Joelton TN

  2. Helen says

    Yes David we want to hear more. This is like a new frontear in medicine and also very interesting to follow you along on this great new discovery Thank You

  3. HENRY says

    Please provide any additional info about telemeres, especially if there are any supplements that could enhance &/or maintain a long telemere.

  4. RAH says

    Dr. Dave,
    Please help the majority of us out here that cannot afford the TA65 treatments. Are there ways that we can naturally increase the lenght of our telomeres? I’m afraid that all this excitement about telomere lengthening will not help the average person because of cost. Thank you.


  5. Anonymous says

    Hello Dr. Dave. Thank you for sharing this remarkable study of telemere research. Yes…I would love to know more about this field and any way(s) to increase telemere length [mine, personally!] through supplementation, exercise and natural foods.
    P.s. Just purchased your book: “The Immortality Edge.”

  6. Anonymous says

    Absolutely, Dr Dave,

    We want more, so that even if we don’t live longer lives, we can live healthier lives to the fullest. Thanks.

  7. Boomer12k says

    I am wondering about FOODS, and the “American Diet”, refined processed foods, having less nutrition, and being “dead” in effect to lengthen shelf-life. If there are foods, or things that LENGTHEN TELOMERES, are there not things that SHORTEN THEM PREMATURELY??????????????????????
    If you are not getting complete nutrition from your diet, you are going to be deficient in something sooner or later. Maybe our Telomeres are becoming DEFICIENT from lack of nutritional balance.
    Do a search for things that lengthen Telomeres.

    Be well and happy.

  8. says

    Thanks for the input gang. For those of you who are on a budget make sure you read The Immortality Edge ( Its loaded with zero cost options for maximizing telomere length and health.

    RE food choices: there are no published specific studies on specific diets or even isolated foods but once again we give several options in the book based on what is expected.
    Bottom line: an diet rich in anti-oxidants is your best choice. But always keep this in mind: there is a huge difference between preserving telomere length and actually adding length. The first is relatively easy and again is the major topic of our book. The second has only one option: TA-65. Sadly,”Complete dietary nutrition” from any source will not change that. If anyone is interested in hearing the upcoming teleseminar with Dr Loren Cordain ( author of The Paleo Diet and I on the above topics make sure you sign up for my newsletter on my site so you can get the info on how to hear it and participate. Best, Dr Dave aka Dr Telomere
    PS make sure you check out all the telomere related info on my blog as well. Many of these questions are thoroughly answered there!

  9. Anonymous says

    You say “diet rich in anti-oxidants is your best choice” and I understand coffee is rich in anti-oxidants, so is coffee good?

  10. Dave says

    Dr. Dave –

    What role does exercise and stress reduction play in maintaining telomere length? On a limited budget what supplements should I take that have the most positive impact on telomeres?

  11. says

    As always, Dr. Dave, you are ahead of the curve.

    I’d be curious to see if cells whose telomeres are lengthened by a telomerase activator like TA-65 are functionally equivalent to a younger person’s cells with naturally long telomeres.

    Can you truly decrease a cell’s risk of becoming cancerous simply by lengthening telomeres? Or can another mechanism, like improved immunity, lead to lower cancer rates? Like the JAMA article probably concluded, “more research needs to be done.”

    This is potentially great news for smokers and other people who lead lifestyles that shorten their telomeres prematurely. Let’s hope that telomerase activators don’t take the place of a healthy diet and regular exercise in the future!

  12. says

    Thanks for the great questions

    To anonymous: Dietary studies are always tricky to do accurately since people are pretty complicated and generally non compliant with specifics. Mostly individual supplements or dietary components have been studied. So far the only study that included coffee showed no association with telomere length either way. In other words coffee did not improve or reduce telomere length. It may be that the anti-oxidant value of coffee is over played or negated by some other compounds in coffee but at least it seems to do no harm to the telomeres.
    Green and to some degree black tea however have been studied with regards to the chemical EGCG and other “polyphenols’ (antioxidants in the tea). And these appear to slow down telomere loss when compared to people who do not use them. Presumably extracts of these teas will do the same thing as they are primarily EGCG and polyphenols without the caffeine etc.

    Bottom line: it appears to matter which antioxidants you use as supplements or take in as part of your food. Diets rich in Co q 10 Carnosine ( free range meats), other polyphenols (berries fruits vegetables) appear to be the most health in terms of the “oxidant load on the body”. By the way so far only processed or cured meats have shown a negative association with telomere length as far as individual food groups are concerned. I am a fan of limiting fish intake even though Omega 3’s are healthy. There are too many pollutants in fish for my liking (see below for fish oil recommendations)!

    to Dave: Exercise Plays a big role. The goal is the most “bang for your buck” with the least oxidative damage. For this reason we recommend high intensity short bouts of exercise. Meditation is championed by Noble Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn who has studied it at length and concluded it is an effective way to slow down telomere loss. Again presumably anything that has a similar calming effect on the brain and nervous system will be effective as well but only “mindfulness meditation” has been specifically studied
    As far as cost and supplements it’s a very good question. The simple answer is, buy the absolute best fish oil you can take and take it in at least 3 to 6 grams a day dose. A good multi and a berry derived anti-oxidant would also help. Both fish and multi vites have been shown to slow down telomere loss. The anti-oxidants from berries have not been studied in that way yet but concentrated berry extracts are some of the richest sources of anti oxidants around. Vitamin D3 also slows down telomere loss.
    Only TA-65 ( made from astragalus) appears to be able to add length to the telomere rather than just slowing down the loss. The lowest dose of this costs $6 a day which to me seems to be a small price to pay for the only thing on the planet that does this safely in people. Please note other forms of astragalus including “astragalosides” do not work to turn on telomerase and may not even be effective anti-oxidants

    If you can afford it you should do both: add length with TA-65 and slow down the loss with the appropriate anti-oxidants. For much more on ALL these topics please see the book “The Immortality Edge”.
    Thanks again for the great questions! Dr Dave aka Dr Telomere

  13. Anonymous says

    Hi Dr. Telomere,
    I have to say that all this is really amazing to me. I did just recently purchase your book and I have been reading it and I am grateful for the information that you put into it. I have a young son (12) who is difficult to cook for because of the small amount of foods that he actually likes. Do you have any recommendations for a healthy snack type of food that will preserve his telomere length? Also, is it too late for someone my age (56) to add length to my telomeres? I want to be around to see his major life events, as well as his kids’ major life events.

    Mark from KY

  14. Spinny says

    Dear Dr Telomere,
    Will you let us know how calorie restriction affects teleomere length as compared to TA-65. I’m hearing a lot of conflicting theories. I am an athlete and need food, but I want to do whatever I can to maximize telomere length and minimize the rate at which my telomreres shorten.

    Thank you,

  15. Anonymous says

    Dr Telemore
    I appreciate a Dr who takes time from a busy schedule to answer questions and does this with expertise this is just an invitation to other Drs to do the same, we are bombarded with so many negatives in regards to our health and all just to make a few bucks, I thank you for your time and effort.JAM

  16. says

    Let me answer everyone’s question in summary fashion. Dr Tim first.
    “I’d be curious to see if cells whose telomeres are lengthened by a telomerase activator like TA-65 are functionally equivalent to a younger person’s cells with naturally long telomeres.
    Can you truly decrease a cell’s risk of becoming cancerous simply by lengthening telomeres? Or can another mechanism, like improved immunity, lead to lower cancer rates? Like the JAMA article probably concluded, “more research needs to be done.”
    This is potentially great news for smokers and other people who lead lifestyles that shorten their telomeres prematurely. Let’s hope that telomerase activators don’t take the place of a healthy diet and regular exercise in the future!”

    Dr Tim So would I!!! In terms of functional equivalence that is a pretty broad concept that involves an awful lot of things to follow in terms of lab studies and function. The primary end points of the Rejuvenation Research article testing TA-65 in terms of labs and cell function were: Immunosenescence, inflammatory markers, short telomeres, bone density, insulin glucose metabolism and several “subjective trend” reported by patients we would equate with “youth” such as general energy sex drive focus and perceived appearance. While the subjective things are”soft” data the objective are clear cut and all of the above were improved. In terms of what is happening at a cellular level we are sure of 2 BIG things: 1) Short telomeres which are commonly cause the problems in cells are lengthened and 2) The immune system is strengthened as measured by the % of on reactive “burned out immune cells” versus active and functional cells as well as viral loads in those patients that had them.

    With regards to Question 2 and cancer being reversed by lengthening telomeres we can say that longer telomeres equate with less cancer ( and other diseases of aging) so it is “more correct” say preventing telomere degradation reduces the risk of cancer rather than reversing telomere degradation reduces the incidence of cancer: two very different statements. Still phenotypically and genotypically in mice you see just that, as well as a clear cut reversal of the aging process again phenotypically and genotypically. But no one has done or answered the question in people because we don’t have a sample size large enough to compare cancer incidence accurately. We can say that TA-65 so far has not shown anything remotely suggesting INCREASED cancer incidence which is what most people are concerned about. Cancer seems to make the telomerase not vice versa but it is difficult to escape the preconceived notions brought about by years of research in the “telomerase inhibitor field” by researchers who have won awards for such!

    With regard to smokers we have to make an intelligent guess. We know that smokers have shorter than normal telomeres in their WBC and their lung tissues. We know that cancer and copd are associated with shorter telomeres. We know that the shortest telomeres cause cancer and other problems but no one has done and will likely do a study using TA-65 in drug like fashion to make medical claims because of the onerous and expensive regulation involved in pharmaceuticals. TA-65 “wants” to remain a supplement. The problem is that even if someone had another telomerase activator as a drug right now it would take at least 5 probably 10 years to pass the FDA!

    Finally comparing telomerase activators to exercise and diet is an apples and oranges thing. Exercise and diet reduce telomere loss telomerase activation extends telomeres. A critically different point I find myself repeating over and over again!

    Thanks for the great questions and I love the committoquitsmoking website you have developed: Great Stuff!

    Next is Mark from KY
    “Do you have any recommendations for a healthy snack type of food that will preserve his telomere length? Also, is it too late for someone my age (56) to add length to my telomeres? I want to be around to see his major life events, as well as his kids’ major life events.”
    Mark from KY
    First it’s never too late to add length to your telomeres. As described in our book “The Immortality Edge’ the dose of TA-65 you take is related to your age and prior medical history and lifestyle habits like smoking weight, sleep exercise, alcohol use etc. A higher dose of TA-65 is recommended for people who are older or ‘deeper in the hole’ so to speak. If you cannot or will not afford Ta-65 then do everything we say in the book to reduce the speed you lose telomere length at.

    Snack food wise you can go wrong with fresh berries for anti-oxidant value. Green tea or the green tea extract is also a great idea! Green tea might be the only “food” that has actually been studied with a positive result on telomeres so far!

    Next is “Spinny”

    Dear Dr Telomere,
    Will you let us know how calorie restriction affects telomere length as compared to TA-65. I’m hearing a lot of conflicting theories. I am an athlete and need food, but I want to do whatever I can to maximize telomere length and minimize the rate at which my telomeres shorten.

    Answer: in spite of near religious support for calorie restriction it has not been adequately explored in humans. The most calorie restricted and protein restricted population alive right now is our senior population ad they are not the model of healthy longevity. Calorie restriction will not do anything to lengthen your telomeres but it may slow down their loss. CR (calorie restriction) appears to work via the SIR1 pathway and this in turn goes through p53 and PPAR gamma etc much like the telomere pathways do. This suggests (along with dbl stranded DNA breaks) that there are ‘gate keepers” in the cell that can be activated or deactivated by different stimuli. CR should at least in theory improve your mitochondrial function via these pathways but again human data is lacking. I have never heard of an athlete successfully compete while maintaining active calorie restriction ( not to be confused with “cutting weight!) so based on that alone I would not recommend it for you. I you want to maximize telomere length and reduce telomere loss which are 2 different things then read The Immortality Edge and follow the instructions there and get on TA-65!

  17. Dave says

    Nice work Dr. Dave, thanks for sharing the information with us first, you are definitely a longevity visionary, keep the good info coming!

  18. EZ says

    Dr Telomere, I have been reading your posts for some time now. Can you help me understand the role of calorie restriction in human longevity. I gather you are not a big fan but is there not some compelling evidence for this approach to nutrition?

  19. says

    First again let me thank everyone for their interest. With regards to my spending time from my schedule on these posts- this is what I love and am passionate about. If you read my bio on my web site you’ll see i have been at this for a while and it is truly my life’s work. One more reason to stick around for a long time!
    If the topic of diet and longevity interests you make sure you sign up for my newsletters so you can access the interviews with DR Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf. My interview with raw food vegan guru will be available in late March as well.

    Calorie restriction is quite intriguing but in the end run we will find a few things that make it of limited value including the fact that we now have 68% obesity and overweight in this country. We can’t even get to near ideal weight and now we are to tell people to restrict well below their needs for that?

    So first it is nearly impossible for most people to do. That does not make it “wrong” it simply makes it impractical. You might think the promise of health and longevity would be enough to get people to do some things on a habitual basis to extend those qualities. Generally speaking those promises are not enough. In point of fact food is one of the main entertainments people have and entertainment seems to be far more important to most people than health and longevity as witnessed by the fact they will spend thousands on cell phone apps cable TV channels they never watch and countless non productive ours on “social” networking where no one actually meets face to face!
    Second as nearly we can tell from nutritional anthropology our Paleolithic ancestors were not as a whole calorie restricted. Clearly there were some lean times and survival issues but when we evaluate what they ate and how they ate their overall calorie intake was actually greater than ours today but far more nutritionally dense per volume of food. Simply put they pretty much made a career out of finding food and eating it. Since our genetics haven’t changed much at all since then this would seem to make the most sense. I highly doubt our ancestors willingly practiced calorie restriction although I admit I was not around 50,000 years ago so I say what I say with that caveat.
    Third the most calories restricted (and protein restricted) populations on the planet are generally the unhealthiest. The largest example of this is our elderly. It is a little unfair to lump Western elderly into this group I realize since they are the victims of Western diets. Protein calorie supplementation in this group generally improve their health and longevity albeit not by much since the “cat is probably out of the bag” at that point.
    Fourth much has been made about higher primates and Calorie restriction citing chimps that are calorie restricted live longer. If you use percentages it is impressive less so if you look at absolute longevity in years. And if you look at the 2 most famous examples “Canto” and “Owen” for restricted and unrestricted ( I think the clips are still somewhere on youtube) you will see the behavioral differences between calorie restricted and non calorie restricted higher primates and you will clearly not want to be the restricted one!
    Calorie restriction in mice extends the absolute longevity (the oldest mice are restricted) but does not change mean (average total) longevity.
    Next while there are clear cut genetic similarities between us and higher apes there are still differences. One of them is the tiny matter of epigenetics which will eventually prove to be central to all of our research.
    I could go on but here is the most important point for me anyway. CR (calorie restriction) has been intimately linked to the sirtuin pathway. This pathway is linked to p 53 and PPar gamma in humans. I have called these the cellular gatekeepers. Ultimately they seem to be under the control of their interactions with telomeres (as we recently found viz mitochondria-telomere length and function seems to control mitochondrial health and biogenesis not vice versa). I think whatever benefits on ageing CR may have will be far outweighed by focusing on telomere health. And finally the effects of cellular regeneration and somatic (body) repair of calorie restriction are at best all over the place. Not so with telomerase activation. When the CR society does a mouse (or better yet a human study) that shows the kinds of AGE REVERSAL that DePinho and earlier researchers showed with mice I will stand up and take notice. Until then I personally practice a Paleo diet which to a large extend mimics the nutritionally dense but relatively low calorie per unit of food patterns that fit our genetics.

    Eventually we may have a functional calorie mimetic (pterostilbene/resveratrol are not going to be the answer!)

    My final point for today on this is CR may actually work ( or not) but it will have no more success in an obese population that loves to eat and we are far from understanding how to mimic CR at level of the cell in humans.
    All of the above and much more I have written and said/written has made me unpopular with the CR people. I am open to learn more if I am missing something! I should end by saying that NO DIET plan has been studied with regards to human longevity and given the difficulties involved probably never will be in a classic basic research fashion.
    Dr Telomere

  20. says

    With regards to CR I neglected to mention the thing that is continuously in need of repetition: do not confuse lengthening life compared to average life span with the actual extension of maximum lifespan and health span! Only telomeres seem to hold real gains in longevity and health at great ages so far.

  21. Dr. John T says

    Dear Dr. Telomere,

    I am eagerly awaiting delivery of your book from Amazon (no plu intended)!

    Please, if you can comment on the relationship to exosure of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) on telomere length and cancer.

  22. says

    Hi Dr John-that is a very sophisticated question! For the folks who are not aware VOC’s are generally volatile compounds considered mostly indoor air pollutants, derived from common household cleaners, paints, some household vinyl based materials like flooring and some glues. Even relatively infrequent use of these cleaners etc can cause a potentially toxic build up or cause problems in sensitive people. Persistent high humidity seems to compound the risk for certain chemicals. There are many other factors that need to be considered but generally solvent based products that were tightly wrapped and made recently pose the greatest problems in new buildings. If you work around volatile solvents, formaldehyde or gasoline and the like you should take extra care. Animal studies have demonstrated even relatively low concentrations over long periods of time cause cancer. Overall adequate ventilation is your best defense. There are no studies correlating telomere length to Voc exposure. VOC’s are potentially directly carcinogenic and mutagenic to DNA and as most things of this type do, they probably interfere in some way with methylation which in turn affects the epigenetic expression of various genes. I can only guess but these types of carcinogenesis are somewhat independent of the telomere based carcinogenesis associated with aging and Immunosenescence although it’s hard to imagine there would not be at least some ancillary effect. We really need to be studying everything we don’t know and use under the light of telomere function though since it’s so important. I would love to see the effects of common prescription drugs on telomeres. We might have to rethink everything we do!

  23. Breaux says

    Hi Dr. Dave,
    Have any studies been done on the effect of microcurrent therapy on telemeres?
    Great site! Thanks, Barb

  24. says

    To the last 2 comments first I would refer anyone who is interested to my other posts on this site concerning telomeres and cancer. Also the JAMA article of Dec 2010 showing a 400% increase in cancer in people with the shortest telomeres and more deadly and aggressive cancers to boot.
    As far as micro current therapy- none that I know of although the original Russian scientist who postulated the existence of telomeres Alexey Olovnikov had magnetic/electrical theories around their structure. His work preceded the Nobel laureates work by 15 years! But he postulated-they proved!
    Norm Shealy has been claiming a break through using field therapy on telomeres but results are several years out apparently. in my opinion its not an impossibility but for now I will stick with TA-65 since it already has proof and has been studied using short telomere testing far more accurate than the MTL commonly used.

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