A Tall Tale of Cancer Risk?

You may have woken up to the news that a new study links height to cancer risk among women. It’s the kind of story news outlets have a hard time resisting, so we asked Eric Jacobs, PhD, strategic director, pharmacoepidemiology for his take:

Eric Jacobs, Ph.D.

“This very large and well designed study including over a million women shows somewhat higher risk of many cancers, and cancer overall, with increasing height.

“The underlying biological reason for the slightly higher risk among taller people is not known.  One possibility is that taller people may have higher levels of growth-related hormones, both in childhood and in adulthood, and these growth-related hormones may modestly increase cancer risk.  Interestingly, height had relatively little relationship to risk of smoking-related cancers among smokers, highlighting the overwhelming importance of smoking.

“Nobody will be trying to make themselves shorter  to lower their cancer risk, and the current results do not mean tall people need additional cancer screening.

“The bottom line is that both short and tall people can lower their risk of developing and dying from cancer by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting the recommended cancer screening tests.”

About David Sampson

I am the director of medical and scientific communications for the American Cancer Society national home office.
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