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Tall people at greater risk of cancer, study says

Tall people are at a greater risk of cancer because they have more cells in their body, new research has sug...

Posted: Oct 24, 2018 5:36 PM
Updated: Oct 24, 2018 5:36 PM

Tall people are at a greater risk of cancer because they have more cells in their body, new research has suggested.

A person's risk of developing cancer increases by 10% for every 10 centimeters (4 inches) they are over the average height, the study said, because they have more cells which could mutate and lead to cancer.

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Thyroid cancer

Average height was defined in the study as 162cm (5 feet, 4 inches) for women and 175cm (5 feet, 9 inches) for men.

The findings match with previous research, which has also connected height to an increased risk of developing a range of health problems including blood clots, heart problems and diabetes.

Leonard Nunney, a professor of biology at the University of California Riverside, analyzed previous sets of data on people who had contracted cancer -- each of which included more than 10,000 cases for both men and women -- and compared the figures with anticipated rates based on their height.

He tested the hypothesis that this was due to the number of cells against alternatives, such as possible hormonal differences in taller people, which could lead to an increased rate of cell division.

A link was found between a person's total cell number and their likelihood of contracting cancer in 18 of the 23 cancers tested for, the study says.

The research also found that the increase in risk is greater for women, with taller women 12% more likely to contract cancer and taller men 9% more likely to do so. Those findings matched with Nunney's predicted rates, using his models, of 13% for women and 11% for men.

Colon and kidney cancer and lymphoma were among the types of cancer for which the correlation was strongest.

"We've known that there is a link between cancer risk and height for quite a long time -- the taller someone is, the higher the cancer risk," Georgina Hill from Cancer Research UK told CNN.

"What we haven't been sure of is why -- whether this is simply because a taller person has more cells in their body, or whether there's an indirect link, such as something to do with nutrition and childhood," added Hill, who was not involved in the study.

She said the study provides good evidence of the "direct effect" theory that the total number of cells does indeed cause the link.

"The methodology is good - they took data from large studies, which is important, and they looked at lots of different categories of cancer."

But she noted that the increase in risk of developing cancer is small 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," she said.

Two of the types of cancer tested for, thyroid cancer and melanoma, were found to be more susceptible to an increase in risk than expected, and Nunney suggested in the study that other factors could be at play in those cases, such as geography.

"There are no obvious reasons for these exceptions, although the author speculates that cell turnover rates may come into play for melanoma," Dorothy C. Bennett, director of the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute in London told CNN. Bennett, who was not involved in the study, explained that pigment cells, the source of melanoma, divide and are replaced a little faster in taller people.

"But I cannot at present think of any reason why this [faster division] should be so, but nor any other clear reason for the higher correlation with height," Bennett said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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