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Women's cancer height link reported

30 July 2013 09:19

A US study has linked height to cancer risk in post-menopausal women

A US study has linked height to cancer risk in post-menopausal women

Taller women are more likely to develop cancer after middle age than smaller women, new US research suggests.

For every 10 centimetre (3.94 inches) increase in height the risk of post-menopausal women developing any cancer went up by 13%, according to the study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The risk of many common cancers, such as those affecting the skin, breast, bowel, womb, kidney, thyroid and ovaries and the blood cancer multiple melanoma, was linked to height by the scientists.

An additional 10 centimetres in height increases the risk of kidney, rectum, thyroid and blood cancers by between 23% and 29%, according to the findings.

The risk of melanoma skin cancer and cancers of the breast, ovary, womb lining and colon was increased by between 13% and 17%.

Height was an even bigger risk factor than being overweight, the study suggested.

The results may make fascinating reading for women who are heading out on their summer holidays in the coming weeks with cancer travel insurance in place, as various other risk factors - related to both lifestyle and genetics - are considerably more established following a number of other studies looking at cancer risk.

Indeed, the scientists in this study acknowledged that more research is needed to explore further the association between height and cancer risk. They also pointed out that certain genetic variations associated with height were also linked to cancer risk.

Lead scientist Dr Geoffrey Kabat, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, admitted the researchers had been surprised by the number of cancer types that showed an apparent association with height.

But he added: "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."

The scientists based their findings on data obtained from a large US investigation of health risk factors in women aged 50 to 79, known as the Women's Health Initiative (WHI).

They looked at the effect of height in almost 21,000 women in the WHI who were diagnosed with one or more invasive cancers during a 12-year period.

The researchers accounted for other factors that may influence cancer risk, such as age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption and hormone replacement therapy.

None of the 19 cancers studied showed a negative association with height.