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Cancer Res. 1988 Mar 15;48(6):1658-62.

Adult stature and risk of cancer.

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Cancer Prevention Studies Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


We examined the relationship between adult stature and cancer incidence using data from the first U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and its follow-up study. Among 12,554 participants 25-74 years old, 460 cancers occurred in men and 399 in women after an average follow-up period of approximately 10 years. The age-adjusted relative risk of cancer for the second (Q2) through fourth (Q4) quartiles of stature compared to the first quartile among men were significantly increased: 1.5, 1.4, and 1.4. After adjustment for race, cigarette smoking, income, and body mass index, the all-sites cancer relative risk increased slightly to 1.6, 1.5, and 1.6. For most cancer sites in men, and particularly colorectal cancer (relative risk = 2.1 for Q4), the lowest incidence was observed among those in the shortest quartile of stature. A weaker, positive association was evident among women, restricted primarily to cancer of the breast and colorectum (relative risk in Q4 = 2.1 and 1.6 for the two cancers, respectively). These findings indicate that short stature is associated with reduced risk of cancer, particularly in men, and suggest a role for nutrition early in life in human carcinogenesis.

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