Posted on Aug 12, 2011, 6 a.m.
UK study reveals that tall women may be at greater overall risk for cancer, with significant increases in risk for each four-inch increase in height in certain types of the disease.
Previous studies have found an increase in cancer risk in taller people, but data on specific cancer sites and how confounding factors might contribute have been lacking. Jane Green, from University of Oxford (United Kingdom), and colleagues explored these associations, analyzing data from the Million Women Study, which enrolled 1.3 million women between 1996 and 2001. The team found that tall women are at greater overall risk for cancer than their short counterparts, although the degree of risk varies depending on the type of cancer. Overall, for every four-inch increase in height over 5 feet, women had a 16% greater risk of developing cancer; women who were 5 feet 9 inches tall had a relative risk for cancer of 1.37, as compared with those who topped out at just 5 feet. Statistically significant increases in risk for each four-inch increase in height were found for these specific cancers: melanoma, kidney cancer, leukemia, colon, rectum, breast, endometrium, ovarian, central nervous system cancers, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The researchers conclude that: “Cancer incidence increases with increasing adult height for most cancer sites.”
Jane Green, Benjamin J Cairns, Delphine Casabonne, F Lucy Wright, Gillian Reeves, Valerie Beral, et al. “Height and cancer incidence in the Million Women Study: prospective cohort, and meta-analysis of prospective studies of height and total cancer risk.” Lancet Oncology, July 21, 2011.