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Taller people have higher cancer risk

It was found that generally speaking, taller women tended to drink more alcohol and had fewer children than shorter women.

Taller people have higher cancer risk

Tall people are more likely than shorter people to develop cancer. Among women, the risk of breast, ovarian, uterine, bowel, blood or skin cancer is about 16 percent for every 4-inch increase in height.

Researchers analysed data from the Million Women Study, conducted in the United Kingdom between 1996 and 2001. The nearly 1.3 million middle-aged women enrolled in the study had undergone an initial routine breast-screening exam and completed a basic questionnaire that collected their weight and height. None had been diagnosed with any cancer and they were tracked for more than nine years on average. The researchers divided the women into six height categories, starting with those women less than 5 feet 1 inches tall, then adding four more groups of increasing height, and ending with the tallest group, which included women 5 feet 9 and taller.

The taller women in the study had high risk of a wide range of cancers. It was found that generally speaking, taller women tended to drink more alcohol and had fewer children than shorter women. Taller women were also less obese, less likely to smoke, wealthier, and more active. Overall, regardless of most of these factors, taller women were significantly more likely to develop most cancers, with risk ratcheting upward with every increment in height. One exception was that among women who smoked, smoking played a more pivotal role than height in influencing cancer risk.

The research team also reviewed the findings of 10 prior studies and found a similar association between height and cancer, a connection that held across many different populations, including those in Europe, North America, Asia, and Australasia.

One possibility is that taller people may have higher levels of growth-related hormones, both in childhood and in adulthood, and these growth-related hormones may modestly increase cancer risk. Many factors influence height, including childhood diet and health, genes and hormone levels.

The researchers emphasised that the finding should not cause worry. Nobody will be trying to make themselves shorter to lower their cancer risk, and the current results do not mean tall people need additional cancer screening. However, it is advised that that both short and tall people can lower their risk of developing and dying from cancer by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting the recommended cancer screening tests.
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