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First sister study results reinforce the importance of healthy living
Date:3/16/2009

Women who maintain a healthy weight and who have lower perceived stress may be less likely to have chromosome changes associated with aging than obese and stressed women, according to a pilot study that was part of the Sister Study. The long-term Sister Study is looking at the environmental and genetic characteristics of women whose sister had breast cancer to identify factors associated with developing breast cancer. This early pilot used baseline questionnaires and samples provided by participants when they joined the Sister Study.

Two recent papers published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention looked at the length of telomeres, or the repeating DNA sequences that cap the ends of a person's chromosomes. Telomere length is one of the many measures being looked at in the Sister Study. Telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes and buffer them against the loss of important genes during cell replication. Over the course of an individual's lifetime, telomeres shorten, gradually becoming so short that they can trigger cell death. The papers show that factors such as obesity and perceived stress may shorten telomeres and accelerate the aging process.

"Together these two studies reinforce the need to start a healthy lifestyle early and maintain it," said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The researchers who published these papers are from the NIEHS which sponsors the Sister Study.

The papers are the first findings coming out of the Sister Study. The Sister Study is just completing its enrollment of 50,000 women aged 35-74 to prospectively study risk factors for breast cancer. "We anticipate a wealth of information to come out of the Sister Study," said Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of the Epidemiology Branch at NIEHS and principal investigator of the Sister Study. "Not only do we hope to find out more about the
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Contact: Robin Mackar
rmackar@niehs.nih.gov
919-541-0073
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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