A study of more than five million Swedish men and women suggests that greater height may mean greater risk of cancer. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology, heldin Barcelona, Spain.

For the study, researchers reviewed information on 5.5 million people born in Sweden between 1938 and 1991. 

Their health was tracked beginning in 1958, or from when they were 20 (for those born in later years), until the end of 2011. Adult heights ranged from about 3 feet 3 inches to slightly more than 7 feet.

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For every 4 additional inches of adult height, the researchers found that the risk of developing cancer increased by 18 percent in women and 11 percent in men.

Taller women had a 20 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer. And for both men and women, the risk of developing melanoma increased by about 30 percent for every 4 inches of height, the researchers said.

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“To our knowledge, this is the largest study performed on linkage between height and cancer including both women and men,” lead researcher Emelie Benyi, M.D., from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said in a news release from the endocrinology society. The researchers are planning another study to see if height affects the risk of dying from cancer.

“Our studies show that taller individuals are more likely to develop cancer, but it is unclear so far if they also have a higher risk of dying from cancer or have an increased mortality overall,” Benyi said.


  1. Benyi E, Linder M, Adami J, et al. Positive Association between Height and Cancer in the Swedish Population. European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology. [published October 3, 2015]. ESPE Abstracts (2015) 84 FC4.6.