Study Shows Your Height Can Provide Important Clues About Colon Cancer Risk

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that occurs when tumors grow in the large intestine (via Mayo Clinic). It is the third most common kind of cancer in the United States. While cancer can strike anyone, it is important to understand the risk factors of certain types of cancer so you know how often to get tested. According to US News, your height may be a risk factor to think about. A new study published by the American Association for Cancer Research found that every increase in 10 centimeters in height was linked to a 14% higher risk of colon cancer.

"The findings suggest that, overall, the tallest individuals within the highest percentile of height had a 24% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than the shortest within the lowest percentile," said study co-author Dr. Gerard Mullin, associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology. The average height in the United States is 5 feet 9 inches for men and 5 feet 4 inches for women. To put the study in perspective, men who are 6 feet 1 inch and women who are 5 feet 8 inches are 14% more likely to develop colon cancer than those of an average height.

Why height may increase your risk of colon cancer

The new study notes that increased height does not cause colon cancer, but the association between the two factors is important to recognize. Study co-author Dr. Elinor Zhou suggested that "one possible reason for this link is that adult height correlates with body organ size. More active proliferation in organs of taller people could increase the possibility of mutations leading to malignant transformation (via US News).

Other risk factors for colon cancer include older age, a low-fiber diet, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle (via Medical News Today). If you are particularly tall, you may want to get screened for colon cancer more regularly. "This is the largest study of its kind to date," said study co-author Dr. Gerard Mullin. "It builds on evidence that taller height is an overlooked risk factor, and should be considered when evaluating and recommending patients for colorectal cancer screenings." It is recommended that people ages 50 to 75 years should get a fecal test every 2 years and a colonoscopy every 10 years.