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Why height has an impact on cancer risk
Researchers found that taller people have an increased risk of cancer because their size means that there are more cells in their bodies. This increases the risk of dangerous mutations.
The University of California Riverside researchers found that older people are at greater risk of developing cancer. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences".
What does the increased risk do?
A number of studies have previously linked high stature to a greater risk of developing cancer. The risk increases by about ten percent for every ten centimeters of height. The scientists have given a number of different explanations for this, for example certain growth hormones could play a role in both body size and cancer. But environmental factors such as nutrition or childhood diseases could also have an important impact. However, it could also be that the increased risk of cancer is simply due to size, because taller people simply have more cells in their bodies that can cause dangerous mutations, explains study author Professor Leonard Nunney from the University of California Riverside.
More cells increase the risk of cancer
The current study is based on the basic model of how cancer develops in the body, with individuals accumulating mutations in their cells over the course of their lives. If there is a certain number of mutations, a form of cancer develops. This theory suggests that more cells or more divisions per cell would increase the risk of cancer. In other words, older people have an increased risk of developing cancer.
Larger women have a higher risk of developing cancer
Professor Nunney compared the overall risk of men and women who developed cancer of any kind to their height or calculations of the number of cells in a body. The results show that his predictions match the actual observations. For every ten centimeters in height, women had a 13 percent increased risk of cancer. In men, the increased risk was 9 percent per ten centimeters. Overall, an increased risk of body size was found in 18 out of 23 possible cancers. With the types of cancer in which no connection has been found, it is possible that these diseases are very strongly influenced by environmental factors, such as improper nutrition or viral infections. Thus, the influence of body size would be masked by these factors, says Professor Nunney, according to the English-language magazine "The Guardian".
Melanomas are an exception
When examining melanoma, however, there was a surprise: the connection between cancer risk and height was stronger than expected. This could be due to the fact that taller people carry more of the growth factor called IGF-1. A slight increase in cell division rate as a result of higher IGF-1 levels could have a stronger effect on these cells. Melanomas may need a larger set of mutations to develop compared to other types of cancer, the experts speculate.
How to reduce your risk of cancer
But people shouldn't be concerned about their stature now. The increased risk is low and there are many ways to reduce the risk of cancer. Eat a healthy diet, quit smoking, and maintain a healthy body weight. (as)