BRONX, NY - Could extra inches mean extra risk?
A new study through the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University says the taller a postmenopausal woman is, the greater her risk for developing cancer. In the study, height was linked to cancers of the breast, colon, endometrium, kidney, ovary, rectum and thyroid, in addition to multiple myeloma and melanoma.
The study included almost 21,000 women and found the associations with cancer did not change after adjusting for factors already known to influence the types of cancer, such as body mass index or BMI. The study factored in age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and hormone therapy.
"We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers are associated with height than were associated with body mass index [BMI]," said Geoffrey Kabat, Ph.D. "Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk."
For every four inches increase in height, there was a 13 percent increase in the risk of developing any cancer. There was a 13 to 17 percent increase in the risk of getting melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium and colon. There was a 23 percent to 29 percent increase in risk of getting cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid and blood.
More studies are needed to understand why height-related genes make some men and women predisposed to cancer.
"Although it is not a modifiable risk factor [A modifiable risk factor can be changed, controlled, or treated, e.g., diet, lifestyle. Height is a non-modifiable risk factor because it cannot be changed], the association of height with a number of cancer sites suggests that exposures in early life, including nutrition, play a role in influencing a person's risk of cancer," said Dr. Kabat. "There is currently a great deal of interest in early-life events that influence health in adulthood. Our study fits with this area."