Being tall always seemed like a good thing. There’s hardly a woman who doesn’t wish she could grow a few inches and emulate the heights of supermodels.
But being short may have its virtues.
A new study published in The Lancet Oncology found that the shorter women are, the lower their cancer risk. Or, vice versa, the taller women are the greater their risk.
In fact, British researchers determined that the risk of cancer in women jumps 16 percent with each 4-inch increase in height.
To determine whether stature had anything to do with cancer risk, the researchers, led by Dr. Jane Green of Oxford University, followed 1.3 million middle-aged women from the United Kingdom for 10 years.
Even after accounting for the women’s different lifestyles and socio-economic backgrounds, there was still a significant jump in cancer risk associated with increasing stature. And it wasn’t just one kind of cancer. Taller women were more likely to develop cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus and bowel, as well as leukemia and melanoma.
It's unclear how these particular findings apply to men.
Green and her colleagues don’t yet know why tall people have a greater cancer risk. But, she said, “the link between height and cancer risk seems to be common to many different kinds of cancer and in different people, suggesting that there may be a basic common mechanism, perhaps acting early in people’s lives when they are growing.”
Height is, to some extent, determined by environmental factors such as diet, growth hormone levels and infections during childhood.
And, of course, genes play a big role, too. It’s always possible that there is some association between the genes that cause us to be tall and the ones that make us vulnerable to cancer.
Ultimately, Green and her colleagues concluded, “of course, people cannot change their height. Being taller has been linked to a lower risk of other conditions such as heart disease. The importance of our findings is that they may help us understand how cancers develop.”
Who knows, maybe this new research will inspire Randy Newman to rewrite the refrain to one of his most famous songs, which goes: "Short people got no reason to live."
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