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Home / Health & Science

Tall people are more likely to get cancer, research reveals

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy MIRROR | Fri,Oct 02 2015 11:09:34 EAT
By MIRROR | Fri,Oct 02 2015 11:09:34 EAT

Experts discovered the risk increases with every 10cm (3.9in) extra height in both men and women.

The Swedish researchers have not been able to find out why but it is believed growth hormones may provide the explanation.

Taller people have more cells, which can mutate and become tumours.

And growth hormones can increase the rate of cell division and turnover – also raising the risk of cancer.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute and the University of Stockholm tested 5.5 million people between 1958 and 2011 in the largest study performed on the link between height and cancer.

The adults were between 100cm to 225cm tall, approximately 3ft 3in to 7ft 4in.

The researchers found that for every 10cm of height, the risk of developing cancer increased by 18% in women and 11% in men.

Taller women also had a 20% greater risk of developing breast cancer for every extra 10cm. And the risk of developing melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer, increased by 30% per 10cm of height in both men and women.

Health experts said tall people should not be alarmed by the results, as height is likely to have only a small effect on their overall cancer risk.

Although nothing can be done to reduce the height risk, there are things taller people can do to help prevent themselves suffering from the disease.

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These include quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol , taking regular exercise and being a healthy weight.

Prof Mel Greaves, of The Institute of Cancer Research in London, said there were two reasons why the increased risk could be due to growth hormones.

He explained: “Firstly, a previous study has reported that people who have genetic dwarfism appear to have very little cancer.

“People with genetic dwarfism have a mutation in their growth hormone receptor, and we know that growth hormone and growth hormone receptor are critical to tumour growth too.

“Secondly, we know from experiments in mice that if they are engineered to make excess or very little growth hormone then their cancer rates escalate or decrease correspondingly.

“In humans growth hormone stimulates cell growth in general and blocks cell death.

“So the level of growth hormone someone has could affect cancer risk by pushing up cell numbers.”

But it is not all bad news for tall people.

It is believed people are becoming taller due to better nutrition and fewer diseases in childhood.

And being tall has also been linked to reduced rates of heart disease.

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