Like the protective plastic cap at the ends of shoelaces that prevent them from unraveling, telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes. These small strips of DNA prevent chromosome tips from fraying during cell division. But as the cells divide, the telomeres shorten and the cells age. Shortened telomeres have been linked to an increased risk of cancer development. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., wanted to see if telomere shortening was linked to colon cancer development at a younger age.