Feature

Health scare of the week: Height boosts cancer risk

A study undertaken by researchers at the University of Oxford found that every additional 4 inches of height above 5 feet increases cancer risk by 16 percent.

The taller you are, the more likely you are to develop cancer, a new study shows. University of Oxford researchers followed more than a million women over the course of 5 years and found that every additional 4 inches of height above 5 feet increased overall cancer risk by 16 percent. For certain cancers, the risk shot up even more—including by 32 percent for skin cancer. That means women who are 5 feet 9 inches and taller are 37 percent more likely to get cancer than their 5-foot peers are. Scientists say the results also seem to apply to men.

“The big question is why this connection exists,” Caitlin Palframan, a researcher at Britain’s Breakthrough Breast Cancer, tells BBCNews.com. “If we can unravel why height affects the risk of cancer, it will lead us closer” to better prevention and treatment. Scientists speculate that the same growth hormones that make people tall may also spur cancer growth. Taller people also have more cells in their bodies—and thus more chances that cells can mutate. But the explanation may be something else altogether, says study author Jane Green: “The point is we don’t know.”

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