Tell Tall Risks

Cancer risks follow tall people

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) According to a number of studies, tall people tend to be leaders, better athletes, earn more, and be more attractive. Yet tall people come up short when it comes to cancer risks.

A recent study finds that taller people have higher risks of a number of different cancers. For women, the risks rise significantly - 16 percent for every four inches. Authors suggest that the increasing heights of populations throughout the 20th century may, in part, explain changes iin cancer statistics.

"Taller people seem to be more prone to developing cancer."

Researchers analyzed the Million Women Study, a five-year (1996 and 2001) study that involved 1.3 million middle-aged women in the United Kingdom. Jane Green from the University of Oxford, and colleagues looked at the relationship between height, other cancer risk factors and the incidence of cancer. Authors performed a meta-analysis that combined their findings with 10 other previous studies.

The team found that as height increased so did the risk of developing cancer in any form. This was especially true for specific cancers, including bowel, breast, ovary, uterus, leukemia and melanoma.

Green said her results held true for people in different populations from Asia and Australia to Europe and North America. She theorizes that the cause for this increased risk may stem from a "basic common mechanism" that may be at work as people are growing.

It's not clear as to why height is linked to increased cancer risks, because height is determined by so many factors including genetics, diets during childhood and growth hormone levels.

The authors note that being taller lowers the risk of other conditions such as heart disease. And while, people obviously can't change their height, the findings of this study may help to understand how cancer begins and develops.

In the United States, the average height for men is 5'9" and for women, it's 5'4".

The article was published in The Lancet Oncology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 21, 2011
Last Updated:
July 24, 2011