That's the conclusion of British researchers, who looked at data on more
than 9,000 men and found that the taller they come, the higher the prostate
cancer risk, and the better the odds that the cancer will be a more serious
Compared with other risk factors for prostate cancer, such as age and race,
being height-advantaged adds only slightly to a man's chances of developing the
Some of the factors that make men tall may also raise their prostate cancer
risk, says researcher Luisa Zuccolo, MSc, a PhD candidate in the department of
social medicine at Bristol University in England.
"A better growth, and possibly a more rapid growth, we find associated
with a very modest increase in risk of prostate cancer and a slightly greater
risk of more progressive disease," Zuccolo tells WebMD.
The study should not, however, be cause for concern among the altitudinally
gifted, says Anthony D'Amico, MD, PhD, chief of genitourinary radiation
oncology at the Brigham & Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
"My bottom line on this study right now is that it's very interesting,
but it's not in my opinion ready to act on in terms of clinical
implications," D'Amico tells WebMD. "In other words, I don't think we
should screen people who are taller at a younger age, because I don't think the
level of evidence is strong enough to support that taller people are more
likely to get high-grade cancers."
The researchers speculate that levels of a hormone known as insulin-like
growth factor-I (IGF-1) in childhood may play a role in cancer risk. Taller men
tend to have had higher blood levels of IGF-1 in childhood, and higher blood
levels of the growth factor in adulthood have been linked to higher prostate
To find the height-cancer link, they looked at data on 1,357 men ages 50 to
69 who were taking part in a study of prostate cancer therapies, and at an
additional 7,990 healthy men. They also combed through studies of a possible
link between height and prostate cancer and pooled the results as a means of
confirming their findings.
They found that among men in the cancer treatment study, every 10 centimeter
(3.9 inch) increase in height was associated with about a 6% increase in
prostate cancer risk. But this trend wasn't statistically significant, meaning
it could a chance finding. The researchers found significant degree of risk (6%
for every 10 centimeter increase in height) when they looked at the combined
results of 58 separate studies of prostate cancer and height.
They also found that height, especially in men with longer legs, was also
associated with about a 12% to 23% increase in risk for more aggressive
high-grade prostate cancer. Taller men did not, however, appear to be at any
greater risk for low-grade, slower-growing prostate cancer.
The study appears in the September issue of Cancer Epidemiology
Biomarkers & Prevention.