There are certain advantages to being tall. Basketball prowess, for example, or potential as a “tall, dark, and handsome “movie star. On the other hand, disadvantages to surplus height include not fitting in airline seats and having to duck when entering a room.
Now there is a new downside to tallness—susceptibility to cancer. In a massive study of over 1 million women, Green and colleagues assessed the association between height and cancer at 17 specific body sites. The sad result (at least for tall people) is that the risk of cancer rises 14-32% for each 10 cm of height for most cancer types. The association even persists across geographic populations so you can’t hide no matter where in the world you are. Surprisingly, the elevated risk is lower in smoking related cancers, but I wouldn’t take this as a license to start smoking.
Any molecular explanation for these findings is pure speculation. Most likely there is some manner of growth hormone difference in taller individuals that, if misregulated, tends to cancer. Experimental proof awaits. As to the practical implications, we can do something about what we eat and related lifestyle choices, but we can’t do much about the genes that make us tall or short.
Napoleon, Danny DeVito and Tom Thumb, at least, would be relieved.
Tom Tritton is President and CEO of CHF.
An Ounce of Prevention [Periodic Tabloid]
King Cancer [Chemical Heritage]