(NEW YORK) — A new study suggests that taller women have a heightened risk for cancer, the No. 2 killer of U.S. women.
The study, published in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, found that taller women were more likely to develop cancers of the breasts, ovaries, kidneys, thyroid, endometrium, colon and rectum. They also had an increased risk for multiple myeloma and melanoma.
The study adds to mounting evidence connecting height and cancer risk. A 2012 study published in the journal PLoS One found that for every 5-centimeter (2-inch) increase in height above the average 5 feet, 3 inches, the risk of ovarian cancer rose 7 percent. And a 2011 study published in The Lancet found that taller women had an increased risk of 10 different cancers, including breast and skin cancer.
Taller men have an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The study of more than 9,000 British men with an average height of 5 feet, 9 inches found a 23 percent increased risk for high-grade prostate tumors for every 10-centimeter (3.9-inch) increase in height.
“One of the big surprises in cancer has been the potential impact of early life nutritional factors on long-term cancer risk,” said Dr. Tim Byers, a professor of preventive medicine and biometrics at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver. “I think height is an indicator of some risk factor, but we don’t know what the mechanism is.”
The findings offer little comfort for tall men and women, whose height — guided by genes, nutrition and other environmental influences — was established in their 20s.
But Byers said taller people should not worry any more, nor should shorter people worry any less, about their cancer risk.
“Whether you’re tall or short, staying away from tobacco, being physically active, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy are beneficial behaviors for everyone,” he said. “And get the recommended cancer-screening tests, regardless of height.”
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