Amanda Pendolino
July 25, 2013

Taller Women Are More at Risk for This Disease

Wish you were taller? One study says it’s actually healthier to be short.

A new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests taller women are more at risk for cancer.

The study, which looked at 144,701 American women aged 50 to 79, found that each 10 centimeter — about 4 inch — increase in height is associated with a 13 percent increase in overall cancer risk.

“We found that there was a strong, significant association between height and cancer risk, both for all cancers combined and for several specific cancer sites,” says Dr. Thomas E. Rohan, chair and professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York.

The cancer sites he’s referring to are colorectum, colon, rectum, breast, endometrium, ovary, kidney, thyroid, melanoma and multiple myeloma.

That link “doesn’t seem to depend on when the study was done, or what the population was, or what the height of the population was on average, or the ethnicity of the population,” says Dr. Jane Green, a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, England. “It may suggest something interesting about how cancer develops in general.”

Researchers don’t know exactly why taller women are more at risk for cancer, but it could have something to do with the fact that taller people simply have more cells. But that won’t inspire more research, since that doesn’t say anything about how the cancer develops.

But since nutrition and environment factors in childhood can affect height, that might be an area that deserves more research.

This study is a bit of a bummer, since we can do absolutely nothing about changing our height. But if you’re tall, don’t worry — your height may actually be a good thing when it comes to other ailments. For example, taller people generally have a lower risk for heart disease and stroke.