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More risk of cancer if you are tall

21st July 2011

Height is being linked by researchers to the 10 most common cancers.

The team from Oxford University, which has published its findings in The Lancet Oncology, said that being tall increased the risk of cancers to the extent that for every four inches (10cm) above five feet a person was, they had a 16% increased cancer risk.

The study followed 1.3 million middle aged women in the UK between 1996 and 2001 and focussed on the 10 cancers - colon, rectal, malignant melanoma, breast, endometrial (uterus), ovarian, kidney, lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukaemia – and their link to height.

Those over 5ft 9in, were 37% more likely to have developed a tumour than those under 5ft.

Similar research was carried out in men and also found a link between common cancers and height.

Lead researcher Dr Jane Green said: “Obviously height itself cannot affect cancer, but it may be a marker for something else.”

The scientists think there could be a connection with growth hormones, such as insulin-like growth factors.

Cancer Research UK stressed, however, the tall people should not be alarmed by the findings.

The organisation’s Sara Hiom said: “Tall people need not be alarmed by these results. Most people are not a lot taller, or shorter, than average, and their height will only have a small effect on their individual cancer risk.”

Dr Caitlin Palframan, policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “If we can unravel why height affects the risk of cancer it will lead us closer to understanding how some cancers develop.”

 

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