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Tall Women at Greater Risk for Cancer

by | July 22nd, 2011

Tall Women at Greater Risk for Cancer

Taller women have an increased risk of developing many types of cancer, compared with their shorter counterparts, according to new research published online today in the Lancet Oncology.

“For a woman of any height, the risk of cancer was 16% greater than for a woman 10 cm shorter. The association was seen across the whole normal range of heights,” lead author Jane Green, DPhil, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News.


“Other people have found links between height and some common cancers,” Dr. Green said in an interview. “We had a study large enough to examine this link in detail for a range of cancers, and taking into account factors such as smoking and socioeconomic factors, so we were able to extend the previous findings.”

Dr. Green and her team assessed the association between height and cancer incidence in the Million Women Study, in which close to 1.3 million middle-aged women in the United Kingdom were enrolled between 1996 and 2001. Their mean age at recruitment was 56.1 years.

Taller women tended to be of higher socioeconomic status, drink more alcohol, be older at first menstruation, have fewer children, be more active, and have their first child later in life than shorter women. They were also less likely to be obese or to be current smokers.

The mean height of the study population was 160.9 cm. The mean height of the tallest women was 174 cm and of the shortest women was 153 cm, for a difference of 21 cm.

The women were followed for a total of 11.7 million person-years, or a median of 9.4 years per woman (interquartile range, 8.4 to 10.2 years). During this time, 97,376 incident cancers occurred.

So What’s a Tall Person to Do?

“You can’t change your height, nor would most people want to,” Dr. Green said. “Being tall has health advantages, including lower risk of heart disease. The increased cancer risk is just part of the picture. Most people are not a lot taller or shorter than average, and their cancer risks will not be greatly affected by their height.”

She added that the single most important risk factor for cancer is smoking, “and that is something that can be changed.”

Dr. Green said her hope is that the results of this study will contribute to knowledge of how cancers develop.

Fran Lowry For original article, click here.

J. Kyle Mathews, MD

Plano OB Gyn Associates

Plano Urogynecology Associates

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Dr. J. Kyle Mathews is an expert in the field of Urogynecology, minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic surgery, and reconstructive gynecologic surgery. Dr. Mathews is board certified and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as the American College of Surgeons. With over two decades of experience, Dr. Mathews is one of the most experienced surgeons in north Texas.

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