Background: Several pieces of evidence indicate that a complex relationship exists between constitutional telomere length (TL) and the risk of cutaneous melanoma. Although the general perception is that longer telomeres increase melanoma risk, some studies do not support this association. We hypothesize that discordant data are due to the characteristics of the studied populations. Objectives: To evaluate the association of TL with familial and sporadic melanoma. Materials and methods: TL was measured by multiplex quantitative polymerase chain reaction in leukocytes from 310 patients with melanoma according to familial/sporadic and single/multiple cancers and 216 age-matched controls. Results: Patients with sporadic melanoma were found to have shorter telomeres compared with those with familial melanoma. In addition, shorter telomeres, while tending to reduce the risk of familial melanoma regardless of single or multiple tumours, nearly trebled the risk of single sporadic melanoma. Conclusions: This is the first time that TL has been correlated to opposite effects on melanoma risk according to the presence or absence of familial predisposition. Individual susceptibility to melanoma should be taken into account when assessing the role of TL as a risk factor.
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