24 July 2009

Height, cancer link grows stronger

New research from South Korea provides more evidence of a link between height and cancer risk.

New research from South Korea provides more evidence of a link between height and cancer risk.

Several studies, mostly involving Western populations, have found that cancer risk increases with height, Dr Joohon Sung of Seoul National University and colleagues note in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Possible mechanisms for the association, the researchers say, include early environmental exposures that influence both growth and cancer, like diet; genes that affect both skeletal growth and risk of cancer; and the fact that taller people just have more body tissue and thus offer a bigger target for cancer growth.

How the study was done
To investigate whether the findings might hold true in an Asian population, Sung and colleagues looked at 788 789 Koreans 40 to 64 years old who were followed from 1994 to 2003.

For men, they found, every additional five centimetres in height was associated with a 5% greater risk of developing any type of cancer after they had adjusted for socioeconomic status, age, and other relevant factors.

For women, risk increased by 7% for every extra five centimetres in height.

When the researchers looked at site-specific cancers, they found an association between height and colon cancer and thyroid cancer for men and women. Prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer risk also climbed with height.

"The consistencies in the associations between height and cancer in our studies and in previous studies in different populations support the likelihood of a common pathway that affects skeletal growth and cancer risk across these populations," the researchers conclude. – (Reuters Health, July 2009)

Read more:
Height affects prostate cancer risk


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules