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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

Height, Weight Tied to Ovarian Cancer Risk

Obese, Tall Women May Face Higher Risks
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Aug. 19, 2003 -- Tall women or those who were overweight or obese in their youth may be more likely to develop ovarian cancer later in life, new research shows.

Researchers suggest ovarian cancer risk may be linked to both height and obesity among women at various stages of their lives.

The study showed that women who were overweight or obese as young adults were up to 56% more likely to develop ovarian cancer in adulthood than those who were average weight.

In addition, tall women younger than 60 also faced a higher risk of ovarian cancer when compared with shorter women.

Height, BMI, and Ovarian Cancer Risk

The 25-year study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at whether body mass index (BMI, a measure of weight in relation to height used to indicate obesity) or height alone was linked to ovarian cancer risk in a group of 1.1 million Norwegian women.

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer among women. Researchers say that previous studies have produced conflicting results on whether a woman's BMI affects her risk of developing ovarian cancer.

In this study, researchers found that the risk of ovarian cancer was not associated with a woman's BMI as an adult. But women who were obese in their 20s had a 45% higher risk of ovarian cancer compared with women who were thin or normal weight at the same age.

They also found that among women under 60, those who were taller than 5 feet 9 inches were 29% more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who were average height (about 5 feet 4 inches).

Researcher Anders Engeland, MSc, PhD, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and colleagues write that finding suggests that "insulin-like growth factors may play a role in the development of cancer, and height may act as a marker for the levels of these growth factors.

"Furthermore, height may be an indicator that early-life conditions are connected to cancer risk," they write.

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