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Being tall 'may increase cancer risk'

08 October 2015 09:47

Every extra 10 centimetres in height increased the risk of cancer

Every extra 10 centimetres in height increased the risk of cancer

Taller people are more likely to get cancer than shorter individuals, research suggests.

In the biggest study looking into the link between height and chances of developing the disease, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden analysed data on 5.5 million men and women across the country.

For every extra 10 centimetres in height, the overall risk of cancer increased by 11% for men and 18% for women.

Increased incidence

Previous studies have pointed to a link between height and cancer.

And Professor Jack Cuzick, director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, says the association between the two has been known for some time.

He claims many cancers are increased in incidence in tall people.

For instance, the latest study - led by Dr Emelie Benyi - found taller women had a 20% greater risk of breast cancer than shorter women.

The chances of having melanoma skin cancer also increased by around 30% per 10 centimetres of height in both sexes.

Dr Benyi's team analysed adults with heights ranging from a diminutive 100 centimetres (3.3 ft) to a lofty 225 centimetres (7.4 feet).

They also collected information from their birth, passport and medical records.

Death risk

Now the plan is to examine possible links between death rates and height within the Swedish population.

While the study - and others - show that taller individuals are more likely to develop cancer, it is still unclear whether taller people also have a higher risk of dying from cancer or have an increased mortality overall.

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Dr Benyi makes the point that her team's findings, which were presented at the recent European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology meeting in Barcelona, reflect cancer incidence on a population level.

As the cause of cancer is multi-factorial, she says it is difficult to predict what impact the results will have on cancer risk at the individual l evel.