Tall people at heightened risk for cancer: Study

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(CBS) Being tall has its advantages from the boardroom to the basketball court, but a new study suggests it comes with a big downside. British researchers say being tall heightens the risk for getting cancer.

The study, which focused mainly on British women, found that for every four inches of height the chance of developing cancer climbs 16 percent. But the finding also holds true for men, according to the authors.

"All the evidence from past studies is that this link is seen equally in men and women," study co-author Dr. Jane Green, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Oxford in England, told HealthDay

The study - published in the July 21issue of  Lancet Oncology - involved 1.3 million women. Researchers divided them into 6 groups based on their height and that's when they saw the elevated cancer risk. That risk held true even when researchers controlled for other cancer-linked factors like age, socioeconomic status, what medications the women took, and how much they drank and smoked.

Why would cancer be more common among tall people? One possible explanation, the researchers said, was that tall people may have higher levels of growth hormones, which may increase risk modestly. Another is that tall people have more cells than short people - and therefore have more cells with the potential to become cancerous.

Should tall people be worried?

"Of course people cannot change their height," Green told the Daily Mail. "And being taller has been linked to a lower risk of other conditions, such as heart disease."

Eric Jacobs, strategic director for pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society, told WebMD that advice remains the same for everyone regardless of height.

"The bottom line is that both short and tall people can lower their risk of developing and dying from cancer by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting the recommended cancer screening tests."

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