Tall women at greater risk for multiple cancers

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by CBS News

khou.com

Posted on July 26, 2013 at 12:13 PM

NEW YORK -- Some cancer risk factors can be controlled, such as smoking status, your weight and how you eat. A new study finds a significant risk factor for cancer in women might be out of their hands: Their height.

Researchers looked at a pool of more than 144,000 women, and found postmenopausal women who are tall were at a higher risk for melanoma, multiple myeloma (plasma cell cancer) and cancers of the breast, colon, endometrium, kidney, ovary, rectum and thyroid.

The researchers looked at the Women's Health Initiative, a large, long-running study pool of women in which they are regularly examined and surveyed. Of the pool, researchers selected 20,928 postmenopausal women who were between 50 and 79 years of age and had been diagnosed with one or more invasive cancers during a 12-year follow-up period.

After ruling out other cancer risk factors like age, weight, smoking status, alcohol habits and whether the women underwent hormone therapy, the researchers calculated the effect height had on women's cancer risk. They found for about every four inches of height (10 centimeters), a woman's overall cancer risk increased by 13 percent.

Specifically, there was a 23 to 29 percent increased risk of developing cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid and blood for every additional four inches of height. For melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium and colon, there was a 13 percent and 17 percent higher chance of developing the diseases.

Previous studies have found tall women may be at greater risk for cancer, including a 2012 study that found for every two inches of height, a woman slightly increases her risk for ovarian cancer by 7 percent.

A 2011 paper that looked at 1.3 million women also found those who were tallest were at a heightened cancer risk.

The study did not look specifically for a cause of this effect, but study senior author Dr. Thomas Rohan, chair of the department of epidemiology and public health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, speculated to CBSNews.com that two factors may be at play. One, it could be genetic factors, so whatever genes lead a person to be tall may in some way affect cancer risk. Two, it could be an environmental link. Different nutrition or caloric intake early in life that map help someone to become tall could in some way alter cancer risk.

Click here to read more and watch the report on CBSNews.com.

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