Your Index Finger May Point Toward Cancer

Men with long index fingers are less likely to develop prostate cancer

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

(RxWiki News) Men with index fingers longer than their ring fingers are one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer, according to a new study.

Led by The University of Warwick and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), the study found finger length might make for an additional selection tool for ongoing screening for prostate cancer in conjunction with family history and genetic testing.

The study examined 1,500 prostate cancer patients at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London and Surrey, Nottingham City Hospital and The Royal Hallamshire Hospitals in Sheffield, along with more than 3,000 healthy control cases over a 15 year period starting in 1994.

Most of the patients had a shorter index finger compared to their ring finger. Men whose index and ring fingers were the same length made up about 19 percent of participants. The study determined that men whose ring finger was shorter than their index finger were 33 percent less likely to have prostate cancer, a figure that rose to 87 percent in those aged 60 and younger.

Finger length is determined before birth and is thought to be influenced by sex hormones the fetus is exposed to in the womb. Longer index fingers point to less testosterone before birth, which, in turn, is associated with lower prostate-cancer risk. The genes HOXA and HOXD control both finger length and development of sex organs, which may account for the phenomenon.

“Our study indicates it is the hormone levels that babies are exposed to in the womb which can have an effect decades later," said joint study author, Professor Ken Muir.

“Our results show that relative finger length could be used as a simple test for prostate cancer risk, particularly in men aged under 60,” joint senior author Professor Ros Eeles from the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said.

Prostate cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer in all men over age 75. Those most at risk include African-American men, men older than 60, farmers, tire-plant workers, painters and men who have been exposed to cadmium. Symptoms of the disease include delayed urination, urinary dribbling, pain with urination and ejaculation and pain with bowel movement. Many times the cancer is detected through screening before symptoms begin.

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Review Date: 
December 1, 2010
Last Updated:
December 2, 2010