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Study: Taller Postmenopausal Women Have Increased Cancer Risk

Height-related hormones or other growth factors may be the cause (July 25)

The taller a postmenopausal woman is, the greater her risk of cancer, according to a new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

In an analysis of 20,928 postmenopausal women, identified from a large cohort in the Women’s Health Initiative, height was linked to cancers of the breast, colon, endometrium, kidney, ovary, rectum, and thyroid gland, as well as to multiple myeloma and melanoma, and these associations didn’t change even after adjusting for factors known to influence these cancers.

“We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers were associated with height than were associated with body mass index,” said senior epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat, PhD. “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.”

Some genetic variations associated with height are also linked to cancer risk, and more studies are needed to better understand how these height-related genetic variations predispose some men and women to cancer, according to the authors.

They found that for every 10-centimeter (3.94-inch) increase in height, there was a 13% increase in the risk of developing any cancer. Among specific cancers, there was a 13% to 17% increased risk of developing melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium, and colon. Moreover, there was a 23% to 29% increased risk of developing cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood.

Source: AACR; July 25, 2013.

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