For distressed breast cancer survivors, psychosocial interventions such as mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR) and supportive-expressive group therapy (SET) result in a trend toward telomere length (TL) maintenance, according to a study published in Cancer.

Linda E. Carlson, Ph.D., from the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, Canada, and colleagues compared the effects of MBCR and SET with a minimal intervention control condition on TL in distressed breast cancer survivors.

MBCR focused on training in mindfulness meditation and gentle Hatha yoga; SET focused on emotional expression and group support; and the intervention control included a one-day stress management seminar. The authors assessed relative TL (the telomere/single-copy gene ratio) before and after each intervention.

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Participants included 88 distressed breast cancer survivors with a diagnosis of stage I to III cancer who had completed treatment at least three months earlier.

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The researchers observed no differences between the MBCR and SET groups in the telomere/single-copy gene ratio, but there was a trend effect between the combined intervention group and controls, with TL maintained in the intervention group and decreasing in controls. Changes in TL were not associated with changes in mood or stress scores over time.

“Psychosocial interventions providing stress reduction and emotional support resulted in trends toward TL maintenance in distressed breast cancer survivors, compared with decreases in usual care,” the authors write.


  1. Carlson, Linda E., PhD, et al. “Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors.” Cancer. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.29063. November 3, 2014.