How Height Is Connected to Cancer

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Jealous of your long-legged peers? Turns out they may not have won the gene pool after all.

New research published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found a surprising correlation between height and cancer risk among postmenopausal women; the taller the woman, the greater her risk for the disease.

The researchers studied more than 20,900 women ages 50 to 79 who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI)  study, an on-going analysis of post menopausal women and the factors that contribute to their health. They separated the women into five groups based on their height, starting with women shorter than 5 feet 1 inch, and matched them to data on their cancer rates.

(MORE: Mapping Cancer: Largest Set of Tumor Genomes Could Lead to Better Anticancer Drugs)

They discovered that for every 10 centimeters of height, a woman’s risk of developing a range of different cancers increased by 13%. When they looked at all the cancers together, they found that taller women had a 13% to 17% greater risk of developing melanoma, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and colon cancer. They also had a 23% to 29% greater risk of developing kidney, rectum, thyroid and blood cancers.  All of the cancers showed a positive association with height; none of the taller women showed a lower risk of cancer compared to their shorter counterparts.

While the connection seems odd, previous studies have exposed the same association;  it’s possible, for example, that on the most basic level, the greater number of cells and tissues that taller people possess simply increases the odds that some of those cells will develop abnormally and become malignant. Alternatively, some of the same processes that fuel the growth that contributes to height may also feed tumors.

“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, said Geoffrey Kabat, a senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in a statement.

(MORE: Another Case of Brain Cancer In Baseball. What’s Going On?)

Some of those common factors may be genetic, while others could be linked to environmental exposures or nutrition early in life.  As the authors write:

Adult height is determined both by genetics and by early life exposures, and environmental circumstances influence the attainment of one’s genetic potential. The influence of environmental exposures on height is evidenced by the secular increase in the height of populations in many countries beginning in the 19th century, probably reflecting improvements in hygiene and nutrition. Height should thus be thought of as a marker for one or more exposures that influence cancer risk rather than a risk factor itself.

Women raised in higher socioeconomic households, for example, tended to be taller than those raised in lower income settings, reflecting the fact that different nutritional exposures may have played a role in both their height and cancer risk. Height may simply be a marker for factors such as nutrition, and identifying them may yield new understanding of about how to prevent and treat tumors more effectively, “[The association between height and cancer] raises some interesting biological questions, and investigators can come up with [new] explanations,” says the study’s senior author, Dr. Thomas Rohan, the chair and professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

In the meantime, Rohan and his colleagues say the study doesn’t imply that cancer is inevitable for every tall woman. The study found an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship. And it’s unlikely that diseases as complex as cancer can be traced to just one developmental process such as growth.

83 comments
nomi
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All of the cancers showed a positive association with height; none of the taller women showed a lower risk of cancer

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siskasari
siskasari

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James69
James69

All of the cancers showed a positive association with height; none of the taller women showed a lower risk of cancer.Casquette NBA

Fed_Up1
Fed_Up1

This explains a lot about my family. Thanks for the information (I guess! :-( )

eagle11772
eagle11772

I wold rather be 6 feet tall and live 60 years, than be 5 feet tall and live 70 years.

jonyg95
jonyg95

can i get a link to the site where the statistics used were gathered?

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

I really think TIME reporters need to research more believable topics. So, I guess with this blurred conclusion, those of us who are tall should take some solace in the fact that this article is really a pile of bunk??? The ending paragraph certainly seems to ask us to discount the entire rigmarole, conjecture baloney article. 

I am tall, happy and healthy. As far as I can remember, there have been super tall folks in my family who are all cancer free. All the women I know in my rowing teams have been tall AND cancer free. I know many people who are tall and healthy and cancer free. So much MAKE BELIEVE nonsense is linked to cancer. I am surprised this magazine wasted time on this sort of balderdash. Did you hear dog hairs cause cancer? Google it. There are scores of studies on that too.

This article sounds like a report concocted by some SHORT fellow who has nothing better to do with time than to write some nonsense.

The advantages of accepting you YOU as YOU are, are innumerable. And articles like this with their studies (that you can get to support anything including the fact the moon does not really exist, dog hair cancer and all manner of madness) are nonsense.

What a waste of space. What next? Short people shall inherit the earth???    



max_loh
max_loh

@BenevolentLawyer  Wow dude you truly reek of non-logic. First off why are you so mad over this scientific article and take it as a personal attack; it's just publishing a scientific finding that has been VERIFIED BY OTHER STUDIES IN THE PAST. If you and your family are healthy GOOD FOR YOU (seriously) but anecdotal evidence does not trump myriads of scientific studies. The correlation is probably weak anyway and the people you know happen to be against the trend. 


You know many tall people who don't have cancer? Great; how many people who DO have cancer do you know? Less than 50? Then your knowledge has no statistical strength or credibility. 


Stop denying science just because it offends you, or because you are a PERSONAL counter-example. And honestly I don't even know why this would offend you if you're healthy. 


Congratulations on your good health but maybe you should take a look at your mental health and sense of logic. 

punkakes13
punkakes13

maybe its do to health

like, hormones differences

someone who doesnt grow enough kinda lacks something

some hormone. etc

taller people may have certain hormones that may indulce to cancer in a long time

for me, too short people r already sick,, as i look at them, i think something went wrong

scchong90
scchong90

So, of all the female patients, how many are tall? And how tall is tall, really? 

BabuG.Ranganathan
BabuG.Ranganathan

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Babu G. Ranganathan
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Snuggeybug
Snuggeybug

@BabuG.Ranganathan

Giving yourself heavy metal poisoning is not a defense against germs and viruses and does NOT cure cancer.  You should be ashamed and disgusted that you would stoop so low as to prey on the weak and infirmed by shilling such nonsense to people who really need help. 

And all of the shills that write that the Governmental and/or "elites" want us to all die earlier, then why are people's lifespan longer than EVER before?  http://blog.aarp.org/2013/03/14/living-longer-than-ever-is-that-a-good-thing/

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moore1980
moore1980

Hmm... maybe I will change my major from geography to epidemiology I can study whether the Beatles or Elvis fans live longer. 

Or rather Democrats or Republicans are more likely to get cancer

HSRCampbell
HSRCampbell

@moore1980 Remember, kids, the difference between science and screwing around is writing it down.

EmmaKate
EmmaKate

I'd just like to say that i'm finding the more i scroll down in the comment section, the more intelligent comments i find, like the ones from @RekkaRiley and @bootsy1. Thank you for not just dismissing this article as bogus because one of your relatives is diagnosed with cancer and 5'1".

anvalesian
anvalesian

Risk of dying of cancer because you're a 6+ feet tall <<<< eating crap fast food all the time, not doing any exercise, smoking <<<< being an impatient idiotic driver texting and not paying attention to other poeple on the road.
Don't worry people, being tall is not what will kill you today, you have other things to worry about...

mullershmidt
mullershmidt

My brother had cancer for no apparent reason--I, on the other hand, am tall and smoke. I don't think you can pinpoint any one thing, except of course realizing that smoking is bad and breathing carcinogens in the air and drinking treated water are also bad. I think you need to concentrate on eating healthy and doing some form of excercise, and not listening to all the BS people are throwing around...

MichaelOnger
MichaelOnger

These studies seem to be statistical jumbo jumbo, until it leads to individualized health insurance rate. Smokers were easy, the obese not much harder, and we can add tall women.

dbryant2001
dbryant2001

Truth be told where all gonna die and probably when we least expect it sorry short people and as a women being tall is beautiful but so is being not tall get over it.

dbryant2001
dbryant2001

please I have so many short friends that have had cancer and there short there are lots of profound contributions to cancer and height is not one of them, smoking , Drinking, HPV true cancer causing factors this is info not accurate enough to run with but a guess and I am tall and its ridiculously offensive. So short people should feel good because tall people are likely to die from cancer what type of crap is this because we have long legs shouldn't cause jealousy because tall people envy things and qualities that short people have as well and for all the short peoples information you all are more into are long legs then we are crazys.

JonathanSmith1
JonathanSmith1

The medical crime cartel is throwing out more bs to convince us they are hard at work finding the cure. The gene theory is bs the height theory is bs. There are those that have known for years what causes cancer but the AMA and the FDA and big pharma ignore it because it interferes with profit. Every once in a while the medical crime cartel will toss out nonsense like this just to make us think some body is doing something. Well here is what causes cancer. There are two reasons for cancer and only two, toxicity and or deficiency. The USA is the most well fed and undernourished country in the world. We rank number 51 in life expectancy and have by far the highest health care costs in the world. What is wrong with that picture?

drbobmorris
drbobmorris

This should not be so surprising. If we figure each cell in an organ has a certain probability of turning cancerous, a larger organ will have more cells and, hence, a greater probability turning cancerous.

tony11
tony11

"Jealous of your long-legged peers? Turns out they may not have won the gene pool after all."

Yeah, I'm jealous because as a short MAN I'm hardly treated as a sexual being in this society. I'll admit the title got me--- maybe there is some consolation to being a short man.


Only to find out that the article is exclusively about WOMEN. Tall women are already disadvantaged by sexual norms that insist the man be taller than the women. There's no reason for short women to be envious of tall women. Now we find out they're more likely to get cancer too. 

Meanwhile, not a word about men. 

moore1980
moore1980

I felt the same way being a short man but if it makes you feel any better maybe your short because you have the Methuselah gene witch was found in shorter men and women.  So you will never get cancer and live forever as long as you stay away from greasy food and don't smoke.  

I wish

RekkaRiley
RekkaRiley

Okay, just to clear up the misconception in the first line of this article:

The way evolution works is that as long as you have grandkids, you win the gene pool!  

Sure, more growth might mean more height which might mean higher chance of cancer...but if that cancer doesn't stop you from having children who are successful enough to have kids of their own, then you still end up winning your place in the gene pool.

Evolution isn't so much "survival of the fittest," as it is survival of whoever can manage to pop out at least one fertile offspring. Which is why so many harmful genetic illnesses continue to "defy logic" and survive to be passed on.  They're not defying logic at all; if a disease like cancer doesn't hit you until you're in your 40s or 50s, then you still had a good twenty years to have children to pass those genes on to.

In contrast, if that cancer hit in your teens or twenties, then your chance of passing on your genes drops considerably and that strain of cancer ends up disappearing.

bootsy1
bootsy1

Skipping breakfast is bad for the heart, midnight sacks are bad for the heart , worrying is bad for the heart , Omega 3 is Good for the Heart, Bad for the Prostate, Gum disease is bad for the heart ,i should Feed my Heart by Eating Chocolate All Day Long, Drinking Lots Of Milk Can Cause Cancer , barbecue meat can cause cancer , Some meats when cooked at certain temperatures can cause cancer , Airpollution causes lung cancer, worsens heart failure ,driving can cause cancer on the left side of your body , Bottled water causing cancer ,Popular Shampoo Contains Cancer-Causing Ingredient , Think twice before getting your hair coloured, it can cause cancer! ,
Is your sunscreen causing cancer? .... FXXX ME I DIED LAST WEEK!!! .....these are all headlines in 1 month from various newspapers , is it any wonder no one bothers anymore!

RekkaRiley
RekkaRiley

@bootsy1 Exactly...

The most common cause of cancer is simply AGING.  DNA degrades over time, as your cells keep making copies of copies of copies of copies etc.

We just didn't notice cancer before the last century or so because most folks didn't live long enough for it to become an issue. :/

BabuG.Ranganathan
BabuG.Ranganathan

CHEMOTHERAPY SUCCESS WITH ALOE VERA! This is a must read Internet article for all those diagnosed with cancer or who have a loved one who is. Just google the title to access the article.

Numerous scientific studies at universities and colleges have shown that the Aloe vera plant contains a myriad of nutrients to help prevent various diseases and to heal disease.

Babu G. Ranganathan
B.A. Bible/Biology

THE BEST WEAPON AGAINST GERMS OF ALL KINDS is colloidal silver. Germs,
including viruses of all types, cannot develop resistance to colloidal silver.

Please read my Internet article, PROTECT YOUR BODY WITH COLLOIDAL SILVER. Just google the title to access the article.

Babu G. Ranganathan
B.A. Bible/Biology

Snuggeybug
Snuggeybug

@BabuG.Ranganathan Giving yourself heavy metal poisoning is not a defense against germs and viruses and does NOT cure cancer.  You should be ashamed and disgusted that you would stoop so low as to prey on the weak and infirmed by shilling such nonsense to people who really need help. 

karl2632
karl2632

This isn't news. I was hearing this years ago and the reason is known.  Any cell can mutate to be cancerous.  Taller people are larger, they have more cells, thus more risk.

fm1
fm1

Growth hormones increase cancer risk, this has been known a very very long time. The only thing that has changed in the last 40 years is the amount of money being made off of growth hormones by big corporations. All you corporate trolls have blood on your hands.

RugeirnDrienborough
RugeirnDrienborough

"The study found an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship. And it’s unlikely that diseases as complex as cancer can be traced to just one developmental process such as growth."

That should have been in the FIRST paragraph, not the LAST one.

This is bozo science and even worse science writing.