The researchers identified 20,928 women who had been diagnosed with one or more invasive cancers during the follow-up of 12 years. The results were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
To study the effect of height, they accounted for many factors influencing cancers, including age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and hormone therapy. The study concluded that taller a postmenopausal woman is, the greater her risk for developing cancer.
“We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers are associated with height than were associated with body mass index [BMI],” said Geoffrey Kabat, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, N.Y.
They found that for every 10-centimeter (3.94 inches) increase in height, there was a 13 percent increase in risk of developing any cancer. Among specific cancers, there was a 13 percent to 17 percent increase in the risk of getting melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium, and colon. There was a 23 percent to 29 percent increase in the risk of developing cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood.
Noteworthy statements/ observations:
“Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk.”
“Although it is not a modifiable risk factor [A modifiable risk factor can be changed, controlled, or treated, e.g., diet, lifestyle. Height is a non-modifiable risk factor because it cannot be changed.], the association of height with a number of cancer sites suggests that exposures in early life, including nutrition, play a role in influencing a person’s risk of cancer,” said Kabat. “There is currently a great deal of interest in early-life events that influence health in adulthood. Our study fits with this area.”