According to a new study published online in the Lancet Oncology, taller women may have a greater risk for a variety of cancers, when compared to shorter women. Many earlier studies also have shown the link between height and increased risk of cancer; the reason for this link is still unclear. According to experts, this may be due to growth hormones, as they are associated with both height and cancer in childhood and adult life. Study researcher Jane Green of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, U.K, feels that tall people may have more chances of having cancerous changes in cells, as they have more cells.
In this study, Green and her colleagues noted the relationship between height and cancer among 1.3 million women. All participants had follow-up examinations and testing for an average of 10 years. A total of 97,376 cases of cancer were reported among the participants. Based on their height, participants were divided into six different groups at the beginning of the study. The tallest participant was 5ft 10in tall, while the shortest among the group was 5ft 1in or shorter. The average height of the women was 5ft 3in to 5ft 4in.
According to Green, the importance of the study is to give an understanding of how cancer develops. As the risk of a variety of cancer is linked to height in different types of people, it may give a clue regarding the common mechanism of cancer. She feels that more studies would be required to work out the possible mechanisms, and the relationship between risk of cancers and more detailed aspects of growth in childhood.
Eric Jacobs, PhD, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society, agrees that this is a very large and well-designed study that shows an increased risk of many types of cancer in people who are taller. “The actual reason for the increase in risk is not known”, he adds. He warns that the result does not mean that tall people require additional screening for cancer. It means that tall people can lower their risk of dying from cancer, by following a healthy lifestyle and getting the recommended cancer tests done.