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Plasma vitamin D biomarkers and leukocyte telomere length in men



Vitamin D may reduce telomere shortening through anti-inflammatory and anti-cell proliferation mechanisms. In women, higher plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) has been shown to be associated with longer telomere length, but the relationship has not been assessed in men.


We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 25(OH)D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D) and relative leukocyte telomere length (LTL) among 2483 men [1832 men for 1,25(OH)2D] who were selected as cases and controls in three studies of telomeres and cancer nested within the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. We also genotyped 95 SNPs representing common genetic variation in vitamin D pathway genes. LTL was measured by quantitative PCR, and z-scores within each study were calculated. Associations were assessed by linear as well as logistic regression adjusting for age and other potential confounders.


Age (P-trend < 0.0001), pack-years of smoking (P-trend = 0.04) and body mass index (P-trend = 0.05) were inversely associated with LTL. Neither 25(OH)D nor 1,25(OH)2D was associated with LTL (multivariable-adjusted P-trend 0.69 and 0.41, respectively, for the linear regression model). One SNP in the retinoid X receptor alpha gene was associated with long LTL (P = 0.0003).


In this cross-sectional study of men, 25(OH)D and 1,25(OH)2D were not associated with relative LTL.

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Fig. 1



25-Hydroxyvitamin D


1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D


Coefficients of variation


Food frequency questionnaire


Health Professionals Follow-up Study


Leukocyte telomere length


Metabolic equivalent per week


Quantitative PCR


Single nucleotide polymorphism


Vitamin D receptor


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The authors would like to thank the participants and staff of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study for their valuable contributions as well as the following state cancer registries for their help: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WY. The authors would also like to thank Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham, and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and in addition Pati Soule, Esther Orr and Hardeep Ranu for their laboratory assistance. The Health Professionals Follow-up Study is supported by an infrastructure grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (UM1 CA167552). BJ is also supported by a grant from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare; IMS is supported by a Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program fellowship; IDV is supported by Grant R01 CA082838 and ELG is supported by Grant R01 CA133891 from the National Cancer Institute.

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Correspondence to Immaculata De Vivo.

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This study was approved by the Human Subjects Committee of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (NIH/NCI R01 CA133891), and written informed consent was obtained from all participants.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Julin, B., Shui, I.M., Prescott, J. et al. Plasma vitamin D biomarkers and leukocyte telomere length in men. Eur J Nutr 56, 501–508 (2017).

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  • Cross-sectional
  • Men
  • Telomeres
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D pathway SNPs