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Gravidity is not associated with telomere length in a biracial cohort of middle-aged women: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study

Having experienced 2-3 births is associated with reduced mortality versus women with <2 or ≥4 births. The effect of 2-3 births on lifespan may be associated with delayed cellular aging. We hypothesized telomere length, a marker of cellular aging, would be longer in women who had 2-3 pregnancies. Leukocyte telomere length was measured using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction in 620 women in CARDIA at the year 15 and 20 exams, expressed as the ratio of telomere repeat copy number to single-copy gene copy number (T/S). Number of pregnancies at the time of telomere length measurement was obtained (mean age = 41±0.1 years, average gravidity = 2.64±0.1 pregnancies). Participants were divided into 4 groups by number of pregnancies: 0, 1, 2-3, and ≥4, to test for differences in telomere length by gravidity group. The mean and SD for telomere length was 0.98 ± 0.20 T/S in the whole cohort. There were no differences in mean telomere length between groups; 0.98±0.02 T/S in women with 0 pregnancies, 1.01±0.02 T/S in women with 1 pregnancy, 0.97±0.01 T/S in women with 2-3 pregnancies, and 0.99±0.02 T/S in women with ≥4 pregnancies (p = 0.51). We defined high-risk (shorter) telomere length as ≤25th percentile, and low-risk (longer) telomere length as ≥75 percentile. There were no differences in the prevalence of high-risk or low-risk telomere length between gravidity groups. Gravidity was not associated with telomere length in early middle age; the protective association of 2-3 births may act through other mechanisms.

Authors: Lane-Cordova AD; Puterman E; Gunderson EP; Chan C; Hou L; Carnethon M

PLoS ONE. 2017;12(10):e0186495. Epub 2017-10-19.

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