Tall women more prone to several types of cancer, finds study

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Tall women found to be at higher risk for cancer

A study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention links higher risk of cancer for tall postmenopausal women. Researchers found the taller a woman is, the higher the risk of breast, colon, endometrial, kidney, ovary, thyroid and rectal cancer, but why?

Other cancers linked to height in postmenopausal women found in the study include multiple myeloma and melanoma.

For their study, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York, NY suspect the risk of cancer is higher for taller women because both height and cancer involve growth factors. 

Geoffrey Kabat, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the University said in a press release: "...it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk." 

The study authors also say some genetic variations linked to height are also associated with cancer.

For their study, researchers looked at women diagnosed with cancer that were recruited for the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study.

The women were followed for 12-years. At the beginning of the study their height and weight were measured and the women answered questions about their physical activity.

Among the participants, 20, 928 had one or more invasive cancers.

Approximately 4 inches in extra height was associated with a 13 percent higher chance of developing any cancer; 13 percent to 17 percent for melanoma and breast, ovary, endometrial (the lining of the womb) and colon cancer.

Cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood were 23 percent to 29 percent more likely for every 3.94 inches of height among the women studied. 

The researchers also note the role of nutrition early in life that can influence cancer risk.  “There is currently a great deal of interest in early-life events that influence health in adulthood. Our study fits with this area,” Kabat said.

The importance of the study is that you can't change your height, the study authors say. But if you know you are at risk, you can get screened early and change other modifiable risk factors by following a healthy diet and remaining active, beginning early in life.

Women who are tall were found to have a higher risk of several types of cancer after menopause. In the study, height had more of an influence on risk of cancer in women than body mass index. 


July 25, 2013 
doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0305