Your height might have a bigger effect on your life than which shelf you can reach. According to new research, taller postmenopausal women are at greater risk of developing cancer than their shorter counterparts, NBC News reports.
The study followed 144,701 women aged 50 to 79, who had been participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term research program from the National Institutes of Health. Researchers separated the women into five height groups, beginning with women under 5 feet, 1 inch, and calculated their cancer rates.
The results? The study found that for every increase in height of 10 centimeters, or about 4 inches, a woman’s risk of developing cancer rose by 13 percent.
Specifically, taller women had between 13 and 17 percent higher chances of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma. With kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood cancers, the risk was even greater, at 23 to 29 percent higher. Across the board, all cancers showed a positive association with height, the study, published Thursday in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found.
So why does this strange height-cancer association exist? One simple explanation is that taller people have more cells and tissues, naturally increasing the odds that cancer will develop. But the researchers also noted that the biological processes that make people grow taller may contribute to the growth of cancerous tumors. “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,” said study author Geoffrey Kabat in a statement.
It’s important to note that these findings don’t mean that every tall woman will inevitably develop cancer, the researchers point out. Plus, past research has shown that being tall actually carries a lower risk of other illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s Disease.