Height and Melanoma Risk: What's the Takeaway?

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A recent study linked childhood height to risk of melanoma, but the findings should be interpreted with caution.
A recent study linked childhood height to risk of melanoma, but the findings should be interpreted with caution.

A recent study suggests that height is positively associated with melanoma risk, and may lead to new ways of preventing melanoma based on early childhood indicators. There is a concern, however, that the study may lead some parents and children to believe that they are at a much higher risk for melanoma than they really are.1

Researchers in Denmark examined data from 316,193 individuals from the Copenhagen School Health Records Register. Each person's height was measured at ages 7 and 13 years; each person was born between 1930 and 1989. The researchers then identified melanoma cases from the national Danish Cancer Registry and subdivided the cases into subtypes. It was found that childhood height was positively and significantly associated with the majority of melanoma subtypes. It was also found that diverse growth patterns in childhood were differentially associated with future melanomagenesis.

Childhood height was positively and significantly associated with superficial spreading melanoma (SSM), melanoma not otherwise specified (NOS), and nodular melanoma (NM). Childhood height was not, however, associated with lentigo maligna melanoma (LMM) in adulthood.

The hazard ratios were 1.20 for SSM, 1.19 for melanoma NOS, and 1.21 for NM per height z-score at age 13. “The clinical implication is that there are indicators of risks for melanoma other than sun exposure, nevi count and skin pigmentation. It's too early to monitor tall children or adults, but it's an indicator of risk to keep in mind,” said study investigator Jennifer L. Baker, PhD, associate professor at the Institute of Preventive Medicine at Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, a part of Copenhagen University Hospital in Frederiksberg, Denmark.

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