Tall people at greater risk of developing cancer; study explains why

New research shows a link between height and cancer risks with taller women at the most risk. Scientists say taller people are at greater risk of a cancer diagnosis because they have more cells in their body that could mutate and lead to the illness.
Caption
New research shows a link between height and cancer risks with taller women at the most risk. Scientists say taller people are at greater risk of a cancer diagnosis because they have more cells in their body that could mutate and lead to the illness.

Credit: Pixabay

Credit: Pixabay

Previous research has shown that diet, genetics and smoking can increase cancer risks. Height could also play a role, according to new research.

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Researchers from the University of California Riverside recently conducted a study, published in the Royal Society journal, to determine the association between human height and cell number.

To do so, they examined four large-scale studies, which each included 10,000 cancer cases for each sex. They then counted the subjects’ total number cells, recorded their heights and assessed 18 different cancers.

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After analyzing the results, they found that taller people are at greater risk of a cancer diagnosis, because they have more cells in their body that could mutate and lead to the illness. In fact, a person’s chances of developing the disease boosted by 10 percent for every 4 inches they were over average height. Average height was defined as 5 feet, four inches for women and 5 feet, 9 inches for men.

They also revealed the increase in risk was greater for women. Taller women were 12 percent more likely to contract cancer, and taller men were 9 percent more likely to get it.

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This study “provides further validation of the model of multistage carcinogenesis which is founded on the assumption that more cells will lead to an increased cancer risk,” the authors wrote.

Furthermore, they discovered thyroid cancer and melanoma showed the most apparent increase with height, while pancreas, oesophagus, stomach and mouth cancer showed no increase.

“It is also important to understand why a few cancers showed no apparent relationship to height,” they explained. “It is possible that in these tissues, cell numbers do not scale with body size, but this seems unlikely. Another possibility is that the underlying pattern may be masked by significant associations of these cancers with environmental factors.”

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Despite their results, the analysts noted the risk of developing cancer due to tall height was small compared to other risk factors, such as eating healthy and exercising.

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