Racial differences in maternal and umbilical cord blood leukocyte telomere length and their correlations

Kari A. Weber, Christopher M. Heaphy, Corinne E. Joshu, Jiayun Lu, Sabine Rohrmann, Jessica L. Bienstock, Tanya Agurs-Collins, Alan K. Meeker, Elizabeth A. Platz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Telomere length at birth sets the baseline for telomere shortening and may influence adult disease risk like cancer. Telomere length is heritable, but may also be a marker of exposures in utero, including those influencing racial differences in risk. We examined racial differences in telomere length in maternal and umbilical cord blood from male neonates, and maternal–neonate correlations to generate hypotheses. Methods: Black and white pregnant women were recruited in 2006–2007 and followed to postpartum. Data came from questionnaires and medical records. Relative telomere length was measured by qPCR in leukocyte DNA. We estimated mean telomere length in mothers and neonates (n = 55 pairs) using linear regression and maternal–cord blood Spearman correlations, overall and by race. Results: Black mothers had shorter age- and plate-adjusted telomere length (2.49, 95% CI 2.11–2.86) than whites (2.92, 95% CI 2.63–3.22; p = 0.1) and black neonates had shorter telomere length (2.58, 95% CI 2.16–3.01) than whites (3.13, 95% CI 2.79–3.47; p = 0.1), though not statistically significant. Differences were attenuated after further adjustment for maternal factors. Maternal–cord blood correlations were moderate (r = 0.53, p < 0.0001), and did not differ by race. Conclusion: Telomere length may differ by race at birth due to both inherited and racial differences in maternal factors. This study was for hypothesis generation and results should be followed up in larger studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-767
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Causes and Control
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Cord blood
  • Maternal
  • Race
  • Telomeres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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