Friday, July 22, 2011

Tall Women Have Extra Cancer Risk

Researchers say that every four inches of height increases a woman's cancer risk by 16 percent
Risk factors like smoking, diet, and genetics are known to contribute to the odds of developing cancer, but researchers in Britain have found another risk — height. According to research published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology, tall women have a higher risk of getting a cancer diagnosis than their shorter sisters. Here, a brief guide:

How did researchers discover this link?

By combing through the data in the Million Women Study, a health survey of 1.3 million British women conducted between 1996 and 2001, researchers found that for every four inches of height above five feet, women had a 16 percent higher risk of developing cancer. The increased odds of a taller woman getting cancer were consistent "regardless of her birth year, socioeconomic status, alcohol consumption, physical activity level, and other factors typically linked to cancer risk," says Tara Thean in TIME.
That's a pretty striking trend.  I'm a little suspicious of data snooping like that.  If you ask enough questions using statistics, you get more false positives by chance (see a posteriori or post-hoc tests).  In theory, you can adjust for this, and I assume they did to publish it, but still.

But this is such a strong trend, that I doubt it's a fluke.  Certainly women ought to be told this.  So biological processes could account for this result?

The study authors speculate that because taller people have more cells, there's a greater chance of cellular mutations that can lead to malignancies. Growth hormones are another possible culprit: They "increase cell growth and rate of division, and inhibit cell death," says lead researcher Dr. Jane Green, as quoted by CNN. "Both of these might be relevant to cancer."
My money is on the growth hormones, especially since hormones are closely tied to several cancers.

At 5' 2"  Georgia should get a sense of relief.

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