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Men shorter than 5 feet 7 inches and women shorter than 5 feet 2 were about twice as likely to have Barrett's esophagus or esophageal cancer than men who were taller than 6 feet and women who were taller than 5 feet 5.
The association between height and disease risk was not affected by age, education, smoking, body fat, abdominal obesity or symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to the study published recently in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
"Interestingly, the relationship between height and esophageal cancer is opposite from many other cancers -- including colorectal, prostate and breast -- where greater height is associated with an increased risk," study author Aaron Thrift, of the public health sciences division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said in a journal news release.
There is no obvious explanation for the link between height and the risk of esophageal cancer and Barrett's esophagus, and further research is necessary to learn more about the connection, the researchers said. While the study found an association, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
"The identification of risk factors, such as height, will allow us to create more sophisticated and accurate methods to quantify patient risk, which will hopefully be used in the future to decide who should undergo endoscopic screening for these conditions," Thrift said.
-- Robert Preidt
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