Dangerous heights

Here’s your strange-but-true fact of the day: Research has established a link between height and cancer risk.

Who knew? I sure didn’t–which is why I just had to share the results of a new study with you. (And why I kind of wish I was shorter now.)

This large study looked at the link between height and cancer risk in nearly 145,000 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. Researchers discovered that every 10 cm of additional height comes with a 13 percent increase in risk of developing any cancer over the course of 12 years.

And this is after accounting for factors like age, weight, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and hormone therapy.

Height appears to be correlated to higher risk of specific cancers, too. Results revealed increases up to 17 percent when it comes to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma. And risk rose as high as 29 percent in the cases of kidney cancer, rectal cancer, thyroid cancer, and blood cancer.

I don’t know about you. But I find this connection incredibly fascinating. Especially since it’s not the first large study to reveal an association between height and cancer.

A different study called Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) took a closer look at the cancer risk of more than 65,000 older adults. These results showed that men have a 55 percent higher risk of non-gender-specific cancers. And height differences between the two sexes explained 33.8 percent of this excess risk.

The UK’s Million Women Study, meanwhile, showed that women of any height have a 16 percent higher risk of cancer than a woman 10 cm shorter.

The reasons behind this link remain a mystery. But researchers are kicking around a few possibilities.

For one thing, there’s the modern improvement in childhood nutrition. With increases in food and milk intake come higher levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).

This is the hormone that makes kids grow taller. But it also promotes rapid cell division, which can eventually lead to cancer.

Of course, IGF-1 can’t be the only culprit behind this connection. So scientists will continue exploring the potential role of this and other genetic factors.

Of course, there’s not much you can do about your height. But there’s plenty you can do to keep your body cancer-free, no matter how tall you are. In fact, I covered this topic in detail back in the November 2012 issue of my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter. Subscribers can download and view this issue for free on this website.

“Adult Stature and Risk of Cancer at Different Anatomic Sites in a Cohort of Postmenopausal Women.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Aug;22(8):1353-1363.