Skin moles might not always be pleasing to the eye. They might even lead to melanoma in some cases. All that aside, according to the latest research coming out of King’s College London, having skin moles is an indicator of one’s propensity for longevity:
People with large numbers of moles may age slower than expected, according to a study from King’s. Researchers studied the skin and telomere length (a marker of biological ageing found on all cells in the body) of more than 1800 twins and found that people with a high number of moles had longer telomeres.
The 10 year study from the Twin Research Unit was funded by the Wellcome Trust and is published in the July edition of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.
Moles appear in childhood and disappear from middle age onwards. When present in large numbers they can increase the risk of melanoma, a rare form of skin cancer. Moles vary significantly in numbers and size between individuals. The average number of moles in people with white skin is 30 but some people may have as many as 400. Some moles may be 2mm in diameter whilst others are well over 5mm. The reason for such differences between people is unknown as is the function of moles…
Since moles disappear with age, scientists at the Twin Research Unit looked at the relationship between the number of moles and telomere length, which is a good indicator of our rate of ageing. Telomeres, which get shorter as we age, are bundles of DNA found at the end of chromosomes in all cells and assist in the protection, replication, and stabilization of the chromosome ends. (Telomeres have been compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other). A measure of the telomere length in white cells in the blood has been found to correlate with ageing in many different organs such as heart, muscle, bones and arteries.
The researchers compared telomere length measurements in white cells with the number of moles in more than 1800 female twins (900 pairs of twins) aged between 18 and 79 years. They found that those with high numbers of moles (greater than 100) had longer telomeres than those with very few moles (fewer than 25). The difference between the two mole groups was equivalent to six to seven years of normal ageing (estimated by looking at the average rate of telomere length loss per year in the whole group). This was not affected by other factors such as age, weight or smoking.
These results suggest those with higher numbers of moles may have a delayed ageing as they have longer telomeres and appear to keep their moles for longer. In contrast, people with shorter telomeres have lower numbers of moles and appear to lose them quicker with age – which may be a marker of accelerated ageing.
Lead researcher Dr Veronique Bataille says: ‘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 ageing. 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.’
Press release: Moles linked with slower ageing …