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July 31, 2011

Tall Women (Over 5'1") Have Higher Risk of Cancer!

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Female models may be tall and beautiful, but they are also at markedly increased risk of developing cancer. The New York Times reported on a fascinating research article regarding height of a women and risk of cancer.

Specifically, for every four-inch increase in height over 5 feet 1 inch, the risk that a woman would develop cancer increased by about 16 percent, especially for:

• Colon Cancer (RR per 10 cm increase in height 1.25, 95% CI 1.19—1.30)
• Rectal Cancer (1.14, 1.07—1.22)
• Malignant Melanoma (1.32, 1.24—1.40)
• Breast Cancer (1.17, 1.15—1.19)
• Endometrial Cancer (1.19, 1.13—1.24)
• Ovarian Cancer (1.17, 1.11—1.23)
• Kidney Cancer (1.29, 1.19—1.41)
• Brain/Spine Cancer (1.20, 1.12—1.29)
• Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (1.21, 1.14—1.29)
• Leukaemia (1.26, 1.15—1.38)

It is hypothesized that the levels of growth hormone responsible for human height might also be involved in cancer development or because taller people are at greater risk for mutations simply because their bodies are comprised of more cells.

The increased cancer risk was found to be also true across Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America populations.

Perhaps now there's a reason why the average female is 5 feet, 3.8 inches tall! It's a balance between social preferences for being tall versus negative biological consequences for being tall.

The good news here (if there's any) is that head and neck cancer does not increase with height.

Read the NYT article here.

Read the research abstract here.

Reference:
Height and cancer incidence in the Million Women Study: prospective cohort, and meta-analysis of prospective studies of height and total cancer risk. The Lancet Oncology, Volume 12, Issue 8, Pages 785 - 794, August 2011 doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(11)70154-1

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