Taller women are more at risk from a host of cancers after reaching middle age, a study has shown.
Published 25/07/2013 | 18:12
The research linked height to many common cancers, including those affecting the skin, breast, bowel, womb, kidney, thyroid and ovaries.
An association was also seen with the blood cancer multiple myeloma.
Every 10 centimetre (3.94 inches) increase in height raised the risk of post-menopausal women developing any cancer by 13%, the US study showed.
Being 10 centimetres taller boosted the risk of kidney, rectum, thyroid and blood cancers by between 23% and 29%.
It increased the risk of melanoma skin cancer and cancers of the breast, ovary, womb lining and colon by 13% to 17%.
Height had a bigger impact on cancer risk than being overweight, according to the results published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Lead scientist Dr Geoffrey Kabat, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said: "We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers are associated with height than were associated with body mass index (BMI).
"Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk."
The researchers based their findings on data from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a major US investigation of health risk factors in women aged 50 to 79.
They looked at the effect of height in almost 21,000 study participants who were diagnosed with one or more invasive cancers over a period of 12 years
Other factors influencing cancer risk, including age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption and hormone replacement therapy, were taken into account.
Of the 19 cancers studied, none showed a negative association with height.
The scientists pointed out that certain genetic variations associated with height were also linked to cancer risk.
More research was needed to improve understanding of how height-related genetic factors might predispose some individuals to cancer, they said.
Dr Kabat added: "Although it is not a modifiable risk factor, the association of height with a number of cancer sites suggests that exposures in early life, including nutrition, play a role in influencing a person's risk of cancer.
"There is currently a great deal of interest in early-life events that influence health in adulthood. Our study fits with this area."
Previous studies have also suggested a link between height and cancer in both men and women.
In 2011, a study of 10 common cancers by Oxford University scientists found a 16% increase in risk for every 10 centimetres a person was above a height of five feet.