Height can provide people with a lot of advantages, as evidenced by our species’ evolutionary path to bipedalism, but according to new research, tall women are also at a greater risk of cancer—for every 10cm (4 inches) in height, the risk increased by 16 percent.
The study, published yesterday (July 20) in The Lancet Oncology, analyzed results from previous studies in combination with data collected from 1.3 million middle-aged women in the United Kingdom, which included nearly 100,000 cases of cancer. Taller women were found to be at an increased risk of breast, ovary, womb, and bowel cancers, as well as leukaemia and malignant melanoma. The association—which has also been suggested in earlier work, though in fewer types of cancer—could help explain increases in the number of cancer cases in the past century, as average height has also increased.
“The link between height and cancer risk seems to be common to many different types of cancer and in different people; suggesting that there may be a basic common mechanism, perhaps acting early in peoples' lives, when they are growing,” study author Jane Green of the University of Oxford said in a press release.