Among specific cancers, there was a 13 percent to 17 percent increase in the risk of getting melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium, and colon. (Agencies)
There was a 23 percent to 29 percent increase in the risk of developing cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood. The taller a postmenopausal woman is, the greater her risk for developing cancer, researchers said in the study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
"We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers are associated with height than were associated with body mass index [BMI]," said Geoffrey Kabat, senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York.
"Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk," Kabat said.
Some genetic variations associated with height are also linked to cancer risk and more studies are needed to better understand how these height-related genetic variations predispose some men and women to cancer, according to the authors.
The women in the study were identified from a large cohort of 144,701 women recruited to the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a large, multicenter study of postmenopausal women between the ages 50 and 79, between 1993 and 1998.
The researchers identified 20,928 women who had been diagnosed with one or more invasive cancers during the Follow-up of 12 years.
To study the effect of height, they accounted for many Factors influencing cancers, including age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and hormone therapy.
Of the 19 cancers studied, none showed a negative association with height, researchers said.
Among specific cancers, there was a 13 percent to 17 percent increase in the risk of getting melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium, and colon.