Does Height Predict Cancer Risk?

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Most tall people are conditioned for some extra hardships in every day life: ducking under doorframes, for example, or finding a rental car that fits.

Now, researchers think that additional height may pose a risk of a different sort: tall post-menopausal women seem to be at greater risk for developing cancer, according to a study published today in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

In the data set of 20,928 postmenopausal women, identified from a cohort of 144,701 women, researchers were surprised to find a stronger link between cancer and height than body mass index.

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“Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk,” Geoffrey Kabat, Ph.D., an epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, N.Y., said in a press release.

Every 3.94-inch height increase represented a 13 percent increase in risk of developing the 19 different types of cancer the researchers studied. And it was higher for specific cancers: they found a 13 percent to 17 percent increase in the risk of getting melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium, and colon, and a 23 percent to 29 percent increase in the risk of developing cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood.

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The researchers controlled for other factors known to influence cancer development: age, weight, smoking and alcohol consumption. They suspect that genetic variations linked with height could also influence cancer risk, and plan to parse those out in further studies.

Photo: iStockPhoto

Tags Human Cancer