Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tall Women and Cancer Risk

Tall women are at increased risk for cancer, according to the results of a recent study of over a million middle-aged women. The overall risk of cancer is about 16% higher for every 4-inch increase in height over 5’0”. The relationship between height and cancer is independent of socioeconomic status, alcohol intake, level of physical activity, and body mass index. No one knows what IS causing the increased risk for taller women, but researchers speculate that it may have something to do with hormonal influences early in life or with the fact that taller women have more cells (and more stem cells) than shorter women, leading to more opportunities for cellular mutations. But that’s just speculation.

Before you taller women get too concerned by these findings, understand that the study reports relative risk – the risk for taller women compared to the risk for the shortest group of women. For most cancers, the actual number of cases per year is fairly low. For example, I calculate that in this study there were about 7 cases of cancer per year per 10,000 women who were under 5’1”, versus about 8 cases per year per 10,000 women who were four inches taller –- there’s your 16% increase.

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