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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quick Way to Tell If You'll Live Long

A long look in the mirror could tell you if you'll live a long time--or not. How? Count your moles.

Although we tend to think that people who have a lot of moles have a higher risk for skin cancer, in fact those moles may be a clue to longevity. Scientists from King's College London have determined that moles seem to offer an important clue about how quickly the body ages, reports the BBC News.

In this study of 1,800 twins, the scientists compared key aging DNA with the number of moles on each of the participants. The finding was startling. The more moles a person has, the greater the chance his or her DNA will have the properties to fight off aging and thus extend longevity.

Moles, which vary significantly in number and size between individuals, appear on our bodies in childhood and actually disappear as we age. When moles are present in large numbers, they do increase the risk of melanoma, a rare and sometimes fatal form of skin cancer. Those who have white skin have an average of 30 moles, but can have as many as 400.

The King's College researchers examined the link between the number of moles and the telomere length in cells, which is a good indicator of the rate of aging in certain organs, such as the heart, muscle, bones and arteries, reports the BBC. Telomeres, which have been compared to the plastic tips on shoelaces, are bundles of DNA found at the end of chromosomes in all cells. They help protect, replicate and stabilize the chromosome ends, keeping them from fraying and sticking to each other. The older we get, the shorter our telomeres become.

The results: The researchers found that people who had more than 100 moles had longer telomeres than those who had fewer than 25 moles--the equivalent of six to seven years of aging.

"The results of this study are very exciting as they show, for the first time, that moley people who have a slightly increased risk of melanoma may, on the other hand, have the benefit of a reduced rate of aging," lead researcher Dr. Veronique Bataille told the BBC. "This could imply susceptibility to fewer age-related diseases such as heart disease or osteoporosis, for example. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings."

The study findings were published in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.
--From the Editors at Netscape



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