HEALTHY LIVING

Tall Women And Cancer: Does Height Influence Risk?

07/25/2013 01:41 pm ET
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There may be an association between a woman's height and her risk of developing cancer, according to a new study.

Specifically, the taller a postmenopausal woman is, the higher her risk of developing a number of cancers over 12 years.

However, researchers cautioned against making any sort of clinical recommendations from the findings.

"I'm not suggesting for one second that people should take steps to avoid being tall. … [Rather], it's an interesting observation that I think raises questions about biology," study researcher Dr. Thomas Rohan, chair and professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told HuffPost.

The findings, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, are based on data from postmenopausal women between ages 50 and 79 who were part of the Women's Health Initiative. After 12 years of follow-up, 20,928 women had gone on to develop cancer.

Researchers found that the taller a woman was, the higher her risk of developing cancer. In particular, every 3.94-inch increase in height was linked with a 13 percent higher risk of any cancer, as well as a 13 to 17 percent higher risk of developing melanoma or colon, endometrial, breast or ovarian cancer. The risks for kidney, blood, rectal and thyroid cancers were even higher, with a 23 to 29 percent increased risk.

Rohan explained to HuffPost that some of the cause could be genetic. "There are many genetic factors that have been shown to contribute to height, and also in unknown ways, can contribute to the development of cancer," he said. Outside factors, such as exposure to certain hormones or insulin-like growth factor, could also potentially have a hand in cancer risk. Another possible reason is that taller people may have larger organs, which translates into having more organ cells that could then have the possibility to become cancerous. However, more research would be needed to confirm any of these as definitive reasons.

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