Tall People Have Higher Risk For Cancer Because They Have More Cells

Zhang Juncai, one of China's tallest men, walks through the street.
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Height could be a factor that can affect a person’s odds of developing cancer. Findings of a new research have suggested that tall people have a higher risk for cancer because they have more cells in their body.

According to the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Oct. 24, people’s odds of developing cancer increase by 10 percent for every 4 inches that they are taller than the average person, and this is due to them having more cells that could mutate and lead to cancer.

The new study identified the average height as 5 feet and 4 inches in women, and 5 feet and 9 inches in men.

Earlier research has already shown a link between a person’s height and increased risk for diabetes, heart problems, and blood clots.

Leonard Nunney, from the University of California Riverside, analyzed the data of people who had contracted cancer and compared the figures with the anticipated rates based on the participants’ height.

In 18 cancers, a link was observed between a person’s total number of cells and their chances of developing cancer.

The researcher also found that the increase in risk is greater in women, with taller women having 12 percent increased odds to contract cancer. In taller men, the risk for cancer is just 9 percent.

The shortest man ever, Chandra Bahadur Dangi and the worlds tallest man, Sultan Kosen met in London in 2014.
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Colon and kidney cancers, as well as lymphoma, were among the types of cancer where the correlation between height and incidents of cancer was observed to be strongest.

“One possible explanation of an enhanced effect of height on cancer risk is an increased cell division rate in tall individuals, possibly stemming from the relationship between adult IGF-I levels and height,” Nunney wrote in the study.

Nunney also cited that people with Laron syndrome, a condition characterized by short stature, have very low cancer rate, which is possibly because of the effects of having a fewer number of cells and reduced rate of cell division.

While height may influence a person’s chances of developing cancer, experts said that people can still make changes that can affect their odds of developing the illness.

Georgina Hill, from Cancer Research UK, told CNN that the increased risk for cancer associated with height is small when compared to the effects that lifestyle changes can have.

“It was only a slightly higher risk and that there are more important actions that people can take to make positive changes, [such as] stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy weight,” Hill said.