News / Health

Study Finds Link Between Women's Height, Cancer Risk

A 26-year-old woman stands against markings on a wall as a nurse measures her height at a community health center in India. (file)
A 26-year-old woman stands against markings on a wall as a nurse measures her height at a community health center in India. (file)
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
Women's chances of developing cancer after menopause increase with their height, according to a new study.
 
Among nearly 145,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79, researchers found that height was more strongly associated with cancer than such established risk factors as obesity.
 
The association held true for everything from thyroid cancer to melanoma, researchers reported in the latest issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
 
It's not height itself that's the risk factor, though. The authors of the new study say height “should be thought of as a marker for one or more exposures that influence cancer risk, rather than a risk factor itself.”
 
“There's an intriguing indication that things going on in early life appear to feed into a process that may increase the risk for various cancers,” said Geoffrey Kabat, lead author of the study and a senior epidemiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York.
 
Those things might include diet as well as hormones in the body that contribute to normal growth, although researchers aren't sure yet.
 
Cancer involves the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in processes having to do with growth, so it follows that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk, Kabat said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
 
Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the study should not raise alarm for the tall, though it does provide additional evidence that greater height is associated with cancer.
 
“The increase in risk is modest and is balanced by a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in taller people, so there is no reason for those of us who are tall to panic,” Willett, who was not involved in the study, said in an email. “Most importantly, research to understand the reason for the extra risk in taller people may lead us to new ways to prevent or treat cancer.”
 
Isolating the link to height
 
The postmenopausal women in the study were participants in the Women's Health Initiative, a 15-year research program established in 1991 by the National Institutes of Health and other agencies to address the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women.
 
Altogether the researchers tracked 144,701 women for an average of 12 years, during which 20,928 of them developed new cancers.
 
Even after adjusting for such factors as body mass index - a ratio of weight in relation to height - the women's risk of developing any cancer rose by 13 percent for every 10-centimeter increase in height (about 4 inches), the researchers say.
 
With every extra 10 centimeters, researchers found, women's risk for cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid or blood rose by 23 to 29 percent, and their risk of melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium or colon rose by 13 to 17 percent.
 
According to the American Cancer Society, the average woman's lifetime risk of cancer is 38.2 percent.
 
Other large studies have identified an association between height and certain cancers, but most of those studies didn't rule out the influence of other factors.
 
Kabat and his colleagues say they took more than a dozen potential risk factors into account - including age, use of oral contraceptives, smoking history, alcohol intake, age at their first menstrual period, and education - and they still found that women's height was linked to their cancer risk.
 
“At this point it seems to be a plausible mechanism whereby early nutrition could affect growth and cancer,” Kabat said.
 
For example, tallness is tied to greater consumption of milk proteins by rapidly growing pre-pubescent girls, and in some studies milk intake has been linked with higher levels of a certain protein that may play a role in some of the abnormal cellular processes seen in cancers.
 
“It is also possible that the larger organ size and skin surface area associated with greater height may put more cells at risk of being transformed to malignancies,” Kabat said.
 
Two previous studies reported that the correlation between height and any type of cancer was stronger among women who had never smoked, but Kabat and his colleagues found the correlation did not differ by smoking level.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid