According to a recent study, being tall increases cancer risk, especially when it comes to female patients.
The study was conducted by experts on 5.5 million Swedish people, born between 1938 and 1991. Assessments were made of each respondent’s health, starting from 1958, or, for those who had been born later, from when they were 20 until the end of 2011. According to measurements, the participants’ height varied from 3 feet 3 inches to slightly above 7 feet.
The trial was meant to investigate a possible link between height and cancer, and it is believed to be the largest scale effort in this field so far.
Researchers discovered that over the height of 3 feet 3 inches, each additional 4 inches amounted to an 18% greater likelihood of developing cancer among women, while for men the risks were 11% higher.
For example, a woman who was 6 feet tall was a third more vulnerable to malignant tumors than a 5 foot-tall woman. Overall, taller men and women, likewise, were 30% more likely to be affected by melanoma (skin cancer). In addition, women of great height were 20% more susceptible to breast cancer.
This study actually is in accordance with prior research in the field, which pointed to a link between colon cancer and height, declared Susan Gapstur, cancer epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society.
Nevertheless, the findings suggest just an association between the two, and shouldn’t be treated as proof of a cause-effect relationship. Being tall doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual will suffer from cancer, because other factors are at work also.
“As the cause of cancer is multifactorial, it is difficult to predict what impact our results have on cancer risk at the individual level”, declared lead author Dr. Emelie Benyi, of Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden.
In addition, it is unclear if these results would remain the same if the trial was conducted on subjects from another country, with different diets and lifestyles. Critics also insist that factors like obesity or genetics are much more relevant when it comes to assessing the possibility of developing a malignant tumor.
Nevertheless, being tall may indicate a higher risk of developing the condition, since it can sometimes reflect “early life exposures”. Normally, adult height is dependent on genetic factors and also on environmental factors, so this may mean that some of these triggers may pose a greater cancer risk later on.
For example, growth hormones that some food products are laced with may cause people to be taller, and also more exposed to cell mutations.
The study was presented at the 54th annual meeting of the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology in Barcelona, Spain. For now, the results are considered preliminary, and will remain so until research is disseminated in a scientific journal. The team of experts will also be carrying out another study meant to evaluate if being tall heightens cancer mortality.
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