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Women's Health

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Taller Women May Face Higher Cancer Odds After Menopause, Study Suggests

But the research only uncovered an association between height and malignancy risk, not cause-and-effect


Specifically, with each additional 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) of height, the odds of developing melanoma, breast, ovary, endometrium or colon cancer rose 13 percent, to 17 percent. And the risk of kidney, rectum, thyroid or blood cancers grew 23 percent, to 29 percent, the study authors said.

How the height-risk observation might play out in terms of improving cancer screening and intervention remains to be seen, Rohan said.

"It's probably not an effective screening mechanism. My gut is that it is just too broad a factor to be useful," he said. "And clearly we're not talking about a modifiable factor. Obviously we're not recommending that women do what they can to reduce their height. But with more work this may ultimately tell us something about the biology of cancer, and how genetics plays a role in raising cancer risk among some women and men."

Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist and director of surveillance information at the American Cancer Society, said the findings open multiple avenues for further consideration.

"One possible explanation for these findings is that early developmental exposures that influence adult height may also contribute to cancer risk," she said. "In which case height would be a marker for cancer risk and not a causal factor." Childhood nutrition, for instance, influences adult height.

It's possible that taller people simply have a larger number of cells, Siegel added. "While the underlying reasons for this association are not well understood, this information may be an important piece of the cancer puzzle that could contribute to the further understanding of how and why cancer develops," she said.

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