The findings uncovered that with every additional four inches of height, cancer risk was increased by 18 percent in women and 11 percent in men. Taller women had a 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer, and the risk of melanoma for both men and women increased 30 percent with every four inches added to height.
Susan Gapstur, Ph.D. from the American Cancer Society said, “This study confirms what other studies have shown.” She noted that the same correlation was found between height and colon cancer. She also noted that this type of research only reveals association and not necessarily cause and effect; in other words, being tall does not cause cancer.
Gapstur added, “Height may be a reflection of early age exposures. This study may provide a window to understand some early life exposures, since adult height is a reflection of genetics and what you are exposed to while you are growing up.”
Data was reviewed from information gathered using 5.5 million Swedish participants who had their height tracked from 1958 – when they were 20 years old – until 2011. Height ranged from 3’3” to 7-feet tall.
Lead researcher, Dr. Emelie Benyi, said, “To our knowledge, this is the largest study performed on linkage between height and cancer including both women and men.” She then added, “As the cause of cancer is multifactorial, it is difficult to predict what impact our results have on cancer risk at the individual level.”
Benyi concluded, “Our studies show that taller individuals are more likely to develop cancer, but it is unclear so far if they also have a higher risk of dying from cancer or have an increased mortality overall.”
The findings were presented at the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology in Barcelona, Spain.