Cancer Study Isn't Great News for Tall People

Alicia Farmer
October 27, 2018

Taller people have a greater risk of cancer because they are bigger and so have more cells in their bodies in which unsafe mutations can occur, new research has suggested. They assessed the risk of 23 of cancer.

It's unclear why there is a link although the lead researcher suggests it may simply be because the taller a person is the more cells they have in their body.

In addition, the study also notes that two types of cancers they tested for-melanoma and thyroid cancer-were found to more vulnerable to the increased risk.

"I tested the hypothesis that height increases cell number and that have more cells directly increases cancer risk".

"This means that this extra risk is "hard wired" and can not in any obvious way be reduced", lead study author Leonard Nunney of the University of California Riverside told AFP.

As mentioned, previous studies have linked height with not only cancer, but other things like varicose veins.

The report, published by the Royal Society, showed that for each 10cm of increased height among women, there was a 13 per cent increase in cancer risk.

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"Whether that comes from a better diet or the fact that your parents happen to be tall doesn't matter ... it is purely a number of cells, however that comes about", he said, although he admits height differences only appear to partly explain why men are at greater risk of many cancers than women.

For women increased risk of thyroid cancer, skin, lymphoma, colon, ovarian and breast cancer.

The biological and plausible reasons behind this association could be the role of growth hormones that allow for increased height as well as contribute to increase risk of cancer.

Although the findings showed that a person's cancer risk goes up roughly in line with their height, Nunney said taller people need not panic as height is far from the sole or leading risk factor for the disease.

For this study the team of researchers compared overall risk of men and women of getting any type of cancer and analyzed it based on heights. Even a light smoker (about three per day) has a huge six times increase in lung cancer risk ie: 50/500 becomes 300/500'. The researcher said that some cancers may have not shown any link with height because its effect was masked by other drivers such as HPV infection for cervical cancer.

Georgina Hill, from Cancer Research UK, said individuals should not be concerned about their stature.

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