Source: The Australian, 23 November, 1998, p.3


Odds of cancer shorten for tall

JUSTINE FERRARI 
Health writer 
 
SHORT people finally have 
something to cheer about- 
new research shows that, in 
one important way, they have 
a distinct advantage over their 
taller peers. 
 
While being tall is generally 
something to be envied, it 
seems that the taller you are, 
the greater your risk of 
developing cancer. Having 
long legs just makes matters 
worse. 
 
Two British studies have 
identified a link between 
height and cancers unrelated 
to smoking, with one 30-year 
study of public servants 
observing 36 per cent more 
cancers among men taller 
than 6 feet (180cm) than in 
their more vertically 
challenged counterparts 
reaching 5'6" (165cm). 
 
The difference was even 
greater when measuring leg 
length from childhood, with a 
separate study spanning 
almost 50 years finding almost 
80 per cent more deaths from 
cancer for every 3-4mm 
increase in leg length. 
 
The reason for the greater 
risk of cancer seems to be too 
much food in childhood. 
 
An editorial in the British 
Medical Journal accompanying 
the two studies says the 
underlying view of the 
research is that height is a 
proxy for early nutrition, 
particularly the amount of 
food, and childhood growth 
and development. 
 
"Taller people are more 
likely to have been exposed to 
a greater surfeit of dietary 
energy during maturing than 
shorter ones, notwithstanding 
the influence of heredity," it 
says. 
 
Animal experiments suggest 
that restricting nutritional 
intake, particularly in adult 
life, prolongs life and lowers 
cancer rates as a result of the 
lighter, leaner animals. 
 
NSW Cancer Council cancer 
epidemiologist Bruce 
Armstrong said links between 
height and the hormone- 
related cancers of the breast 
and the prostate had been 
noted previously, and involved 
the greatest risks in the latest 
two studies, suggesting 
hormones played a role in 
other non-smoking cancers. 
 
Professor Armstrong said it 
was difficult to say whether 
the amount children eat was 
inappropriate. 


Where to next?

Student Questions for this article
Teacher Discussion of this article
Index - Related articles
Index - Chance and Basic Probability
Index - Inference
Main Index - Numeracy in the News