Tall women are more likely to develop cancer

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  • Being tall has been linked to a greater risk of 10 common types of cancer, according to a recent study

    Tall woman are more likely to develop some of the most common types of cancer, according to researchers from Oxford University.

    The study of more than one million women, which was published in The Lancet Oncology, shows that for every four inches above 5ft a woman is, her risk of developing cancer increases by 16 percent.

    Researchers looked at middle-aged women in the UK between 1996 and 2001, and found that those who were taller than 5ft 9in were 37 percent more likely to develop cancer than those under 5ft. Although the study only looked at women, researchers claim the height link is also present in men.

    The study linked ten types of cancer to height, including breast, bowel, ovarian, skin cancer, leukaemia and malignant melanoma.

    The reason for the link between cancer and height is unclear, but Dr Jane Green, who led the study, suggests that the correlation could be due to either hormones linked to growth in childhood, or tall people simply having more chance of having cancerous cells because they have more cells.

    ‘Obviously height itself cannot affect cancer, but it may be a marker for something else,’ says Dr Green.

    ‘The most likely explanation is that hormonal changes that are related to tallness in women may also be related to growth abnormalities, especially in the breast, that lead to cancer,’ says Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of CancerPartnersUK

    ‘Dietary factors may also be important, especially in relation to the dramatic rise in the incidence of colorectal cancer in tall women,’ says Sikora.

    In Europe, the average height of a woman is thought to have increased by around 1cm every decade since the 20th Century. Researches suggest that if the average height had not increased, there would be between 10 and 15 percent less cases of cancer.

    But, Cancer Research UK say that tall people should not be worried about the findings. ‘Tall people should not be alarmed by these results. Most people are not a lot taller than average, and their height will only have a small effect on their cancer risk,’ says Sara Hiom of Cancer Research UK.


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