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How is Height Linked to Cancer?

Recently conducted studies show that the development of cancer may be directly proportional to the height of a person. Read this Buzzle article to find out more about this association.
Link between height and cancer
According to the British Journal of Cancer, men who are more than 6 feet tall are at a greater risk of suffering from prostate cancer.
If a recent study is to be believed, height may no longer be an asset, especially for women. This study suggests that after menopause, taller women are at an increased risk of getting cancer. So the physical stature of a woman seems to be directly proportional to the risk of developing cancer.

The Correlation between Height and Cancer
In the study, published recently in an edition of the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention—a monthly medical journal of the American Association for Cancer Research—the researchers accessed data of around 20,928 postmenopausal women recruited to the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a long-term research program implemented to study various issues in postmenopausal women. The women belonged to the age group of 50 to 79, suffering from various types of cancer.

These women were divided into five groups on the basis of their height. For instance, women with a height of 154 cm or less were in 1 group. The data was analyzed by thoroughly mapping the height and cancer incidence in each group.

After studying the data for over 12 years, researchers observed a higher cancer risk in taller women. After accounting for other contributory factors that influence cancer risk, such as age, weight, education, unhealthy habits (smoking and excess alcohol intake), and hormone therapy, researchers studied for possible links between the two factors.

It was observed that in the case of women, the risk of cancer jumped by 13% with every 10 cm increase in height. This association was found to be true for any type of cancer. When the study was narrowed down to particular types of cancer, the researchers found that taller women carried a 13% to 17% higher risk of cancers that affect the colon, endometrium, ovary, and the breast. Also, the risk increased by 23% to 29% when it came to cancers of the thyroid, rectum, kidneys, and blood.

The researchers also noted that in the study, the cancer incidence was influenced more by height than body mass index. In all, 19 types of cancers were taken into account during the research and each one was found to be strongly correlated with height. The study suggests that taller women tend to have a higher risk of getting cancer.

A study conducted in Britain that involved the participation of over 1 million women also revealed that height and cancer risk are related. In the study, women showed a 16% jump in the risk pattern for each 10 cm increase in height.

A case controlled study has also shown height to be directly proportional to prostate cancer incidence in men. The study observed that taller men have somewhat greater chances of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

How Does Height Influence the Development of Cancer?
Researchers are yet to identify the factors that associate height with cancer. How height is correlated with a greater cancer susceptibility is not yet known. Researchers believe that growth hormones that play a key role in affecting height may also be altering cancer risk. Genetic components and childhood environmental exposures that influence height might also be playing their parts in this context. Another speculation is that at a cellular level, taller people have more cells, which puts them at a greater risk of unnatural cell division.

The study, however, does not mean that tall women are bound to suffer from cancer. It only points out a correlation between height and cancer risk, which does not indicate height to be a causative agent. However, height may be an indicator that correlates with this risk. It would be too early to consider height and fear cancer. Further studies are needed to check whether the association is consistent.

There is no doubt that smoking and an unhealthy diet are the primary factors that influence the development of cancer. So, instead of worrying about height, one should opt for healthy lifestyle changes to minimize the risk.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.
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Published: October 26, 2013
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