Scientists from the Karolinska Institutet and the University of Stockholm examined 5.5 million men and women in Sweden, born between 1938 and 1991 and with adult heights ranging between 3.3 feet and 7.4 feet (1 – 2.25 m).
They followed the group of individuals from 1958 (or from the age of 20) until the end of 2011, and found that for every 3.94 inches (10 cm) of height, the risk of developing cancer increased by 18 percent in women and 11 percent in men.
Additionally, taller women had a 20 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer, whilst the risk of developing melanoma increased by approximately 30 percent per 3.94 inches of height in both men and women.
Previous studies have shown the same association between height and cancer. That is to say, taller individuals have a higher risk of developing different types of cancer, including breast cancer and melanoma. However, this association has never been studied in men and women on such a large scale before.
“To our knowledge, this is the largest study performed on linkage between height and cancer including both women and men,” said study lead author Dr Emelie Benyi of Karolinska Institutet.
“The data on adult heights was collected from the Swedish Medical Birth, the Swedish Conscription, and the Swedish Passport Registers, whereas the cancer data was retrieved from the Swedish Cancer Register.”
“It should be emphasized that our results reflect cancer incidence on a population level.”
“As the cause of cancer is multifactorial, it is difficult to predict what impact our results have on cancer risk at the individual level.”
Dr Benyi and co-authors are now planning on investigating how mortality from cancer and other causes of death are associated with height within the Swedish population.
“Our studies show that taller individuals are more likely to develop cancer but it is unclear so far if they also have a higher risk of dying from cancer or have an increased mortality overall,” Dr Benyi said.
Dr Benyi and her team reported their results today at the ESPE 2015: 54th Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting in Barcelona, Spain.