Taller postmenopausal women face higher risks for 10 types of cancer, according to a study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
Researchers examined the association between height and cancer risk among some 145,000 Women’s Health Initiative participants. During roughly 12 years of follow-up, 14% received diagnoses of invasive cancer.
After multivariable adjustment, the risk for all cancers increased significantly, by 13%, with each 10-cm (4-inch) increase in height. In particular, risks for the following types of cancer were increased: breast, colon, colorectal, endometrial, melanoma, multiple melanoma, ovarian, rectal, renal, and thyroid. Additional adjustment for cancer screening did not alter the results.
The researchers say height should be considered “a marker for one or more exposures that influence cancer risk rather than a risk factor itself.”
In a study of 537 African-American men — 318 with prostate cancer and 219 controls — investigators discovered that baldness of any kind was associated with a 69 percent increased risk of prostate cancer, particularly among African-American men.
The findings concur with a 2011 report showing that men who start to go bald at age 20 may be more likely to develop prostate cancer in later life. Though grim, the team conducting that study suggested that their findings be used as a basis for early screening or preventative therapy for those at higher risk.
“Early-onset baldness may be a risk factor for early-onset prostate cancer in African-American men, particularly younger men,” said Charnita Zeigler-Johnson, Ph.D., research assistant professor at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UPenn and lead author of the study. “Pending future studies to confirm our results, there is a potential to use early-onset baldness as a clinical indicator of increased risk for prostate cancer in some populations of men,” he added.
Researchers followed some 900 women from a community-based managed care system whose invasive tumors were classified according to molecular subtypes: luminal A, luminal B, basal-like, and HER2-enriched. Median follow-up was 13 years; some patients were followed for over 20 years.
Compared with luminal A tumors, luminal B and HER2-enriched tumors carried a twofold higher risk for breast cancer mortality. However, the authors observe: “Despite its markedly higher survival probabilities in earlier years of follow-up, luminal A subtype was the only subtype that continued a steady drop in survival over the 20-year period with little leveling off in later years.”