Tall people: Cancer
A new study suggests that taller women have a heightened risk for cancer, the No. 2 killer of U.S. women.
The study, published today in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, found that taller women were more likely to develop cancers of the breasts, ovaries, kidneys, thyroid, endometrium, colon and rectum. They also had an increased risk for multiple myeloma and melanoma.
The study adds to mounting evidence connecting height and cancer risk. A 2012 study published in the journal PLoS One found that for every 5-centimeter (2-inch) increase in height above the average 5 feet, 3 inches, the risk of ovarian cancer rose 7 percent. And a 2011 study published in The Lancet found that taller women had an increased risk of 10 different cancers, including breast and skin cancer.
Short people: Heart Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Stroke
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing 616,000 people per year, according to the CDC. And, unlike cancer, it seems to affect shorter people more than their taller counterparts.
A 2010 review of 52 studies involving more than 3 million men and women found shorter people have a 50 percent higher risk of having deadly heart disease than tall people.
“It would be interesting to explore the possibility that short stature is connected with the risk of [coronary heart disease] and [heart attack] through the effect of smaller coronary artery diameter, and that smaller coronary arteries may be occluded earlier in life under similar risk conditions,” the authors wrote in their report, published in the European Heart Journal.
Like heart disease, serious strokes are also more common among shorter people.
An Israeli study of more than 10,000 men, 364 of whom died from stroke, linked each 5-centimeter (2-inch) decrease in height with a 13 percent increase in fatal stroke risk. Men who were in the shortest quartile had a 54 percent higher risk of fatal stroke than men in the tallest quartile, according to the 2002 study published in the journal Stroke.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older people, affecting 5.2 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The risk increases with age and a family history of Alzheimer’s, highlighting the disease’s genetic roots. And according to a 2007 study, the risk is also higher for shorter people.
The study, which compared 239 Alzheimer’s patients with 341 healthy controls, found men who were taller than 5 feet 10 inches had a 59 percent lower risk of developing the disease than men who were shorter than 5 feet 6 inches. The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Height might represent a strong indicator of nutritional status, especially in a study such as ours, which included many subjects who had lived as persecuted minorities in their childhood,” the authors wrote. “It could also be associated with environmental conditions in childhood and adolescence.”
While Type 2 diabetes is linked to weight, Type 1 diabetes — also called juvenile diabetes — may be linked to height.
“Taller children generally seem to experience increased risk for development of diabetes mellitus type 1, except perhaps during infancy or early adolescence,” according to a 2002 study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, but it’s thought result from an autoimmune attack on the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Although it can occur at any age, it’s usually diagnosed in children, teens or young adults.
There is debate surrounding the link between height and diabetes, however, as other studies have suggested children with diabetes are similar in stature or even shorter than their non-diabetic peers.