Height and cancer risk

In a large prospective cohort of postmenopausal women, researchers found a modest but statistically significant positive association between height and risk for any cancer and risk for melanoma, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the thyroid, ovary, colorectum, and endometrium (womb).

These associations were not explained by other known risk factors, including cancer screening, according to a report published online July 25 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The positive association between height and cancer has also been seen in men in “several studies,” said study chief Geoffrey Kabat, PhD, senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City.

For every 10 cm increase in height, there was a 13% increase in risk of developing any cancer, after adjustment for “all important potential confounders,” including age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and hormone therapy, the researchers report.

There was also a 13% to 17% increase in the risk for melanoma and for cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium and colon, and a 23% to 29% increase in the risk for cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood.

What might be behind this association? “One possibility is that improved nutrition in childhood — greater intake of calorie-dense foods and of milk — is associated with increased circulating levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 [IGF-1] and with increased linear growth and greater height,” Dr. Kabat said. “IGF-1 promotes cell proliferation — a process that contributes to cancer. This is perhaps the most plausible explanation at this time,” although there are others that need to be considered, he added

So apparently the taller you are then even more care is required to moderate lifestyle and reduce the overall risk of premature disease.

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