Post-menopausal women who are taller than others may be at greater risk for developing cancer, new research reveals.
“We observed a 13 percent increase in risk for all cancers combined for every 10-centimeter increase in height,” said study researcher Thomas Rohan, a professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Ten centimeters is about four inches.
The findings suggest that height is linked with 10 types of cancer in post-menopausal women ages 50 and older. These results held true even after the researchers considered such factors as age, weight, education, smoking, alcohol consumption and the use of hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms.
“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,” epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat, the study’s lead author, told Reuters. Those things might include diet as well as hormones that contribute to normal growth.
In the study, which was published last week in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, researchers looked at data collected from nearly 145,000 American women who had gone through menopause. The women were all participants in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term nationwide study designed to better understand the causes of chronic disease in middle-age and older women.
Participants had their height and weight measured, and they also completed questionnaires describing their medical history, lifestyle habits and dietary patterns. Over the follow-up period — 12 years, on average — nearly 21,000 cases of cancer were diagnosed among the women.
The biggest increase in risk was seen in cancers of the kidney and blood, with women’s chances of developing the diseases rising 29 percent for every 10-centimeter increase in height. Additionally, the researchers found a 13 percent increase in risk for breast and ovarian cancer, a 15 percent increase in melanoma and a 16 percent rise in colon cancer with every 10-centimeter height increase.