• Open Access

Race/ethnicity and telomere length in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis


Ana V. Diez Roux, Center for Integrative Approaches to Health Disparities, University of Michigan, SPH Tower Rm 3671, 109 South Observatory Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. Tel.: +1 734 615 9204; fax: +1 734 763 5706; e-mail: adiezrou@umich.edu


Telomere length has emerged as a marker of exposure to oxidative stress and aging. Race/ethnic differences in telomere length have been infrequently investigated. Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) was assessed 981 white, black and Hispanic men and women aged 45–84 years participating in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Direct measurement and questionnaire were used to assess covariates. Linear regression was used to estimate associations of LTL with race/ethnicity and age after adjustment for sex, income, education, smoking, physical activity, diet and body mass index. On average blacks and Hispanics had shorter telomeres than whites [adjusted mean differences (standard error) in T/S ratio compared to whites: −0.041 (0.018) for blacks and −0.044 (0.018) for Hispanics]. Blacks and Hispanics showed greater differences in telomere length associated with age than whites (adjusted mean differences in T/S ratio per 1 year increase in age −0.0018, −0.0047 and −0.0055 in whites, blacks and Hispanics respectively). Differences in age associations were more pronounced and only statistically significant in women. Race/ethnic differences in LTL may reflect the cumulative burden of differential exposure to oxidative stress (and its predictors) over the lifecourse.