Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

Tall Women Linked to Greater Cancer Risk

Study Suggests Taller Women Have Higher Risk of a Variety of Cancer Types
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

July 20, 2011 -- Taller women are at greater risk for many types of cancers compared with shorter women, a new study suggests.

In the study, cancer risk rose by about 16% for every 4-inch increase in height. The risk of total cancer increased with height, as did the risk of many different types of cancer including breast, ovary, uterine, and colon cancer as well as leukemia and melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer.

The findings appear online in the Lancet Oncology.

Several studies have linked height to cancer risk, but the precise nature of the relationship is still poorly understood. "Growth hormones are one theory [as] they have been linked to both height and cancer risk in childhood or in adult life, or tall people may simply have a greater chance of cancerous cell changes, because they have more cells," says study researcher Jane Green of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, U.K., in an email.

Height and Cancer

Green and colleagues looked at the relationship between height and cancer among 1.3 million middle-aged women who were enrolled between 1996 and 2001. During an average follow-up of 10 years, there were 97,376 cases of cancer.

Women were grouped into six categories based on their height when they were recruited into the study. The tallest women were about 5 feet 10 inches or taller and the shortest women in the study measured about 5 feet 1 inch or less. There were about 8 and 1/4 inches between the tallest and shortest women in the study; the average height was between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 4 inches.

Taller women were at higher risk for all cancers, and this increased risk was seen regardless of the year they were born, socioeconomic status, body mass index, alcohol intake, physical activity, age when they began menstruating, use of oral contraceptive and hormone replacement therapy, and other factors that are known to affect cancer risk.

The increased risk associated with height was lower for smoking-related cancers among current smokers, the study showed.

The researchers also combined their results with those from 10 previous studies to show that the findings also hold across Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia.

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
Is it menopause or something else?
woman in bathtub
bp app on smartwatch and phone
estrogen gene

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Blood pressure check
hot water bottle on stomach
Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror