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8 September 2008
Prostate cancer: size matters...
by George Atkinson

British researchers say that a man's height is an indicator for risk of prostate cancer development and is also strongly linked to the progression of the cancer. Published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the study was conducted jointly by four universities in England and involved more than 9,000 men, both with and without prostate cancer.

The researchers found that the risk of developing the disease rises by about six percent for every 4 inches in height a man is over the shortest group of men in the study. That means a man who is one foot taller than the shortest person in the study would have a 19 percent increased risk of developing the disease.

However, the researchers caution that these increases in risk are a lot less than those linked with other established risk factors, such as age, family history of the disease, and race. Because of that, the researchers do not suggest that taller men be screened more often than is typical, or that their cancer treatment be altered.

"Compared to other risk factors, the magnitude of the additional risk of being taller is small, and we do not believe that it should interfere with preventive or clinical decisions in managing prostate cancer," said the study's lead author, Luisa Zuccolo. "But the insight arising from this research is of great scientific interest. Little is known on the causes of prostate cancer and this association with height has opened up a new line of scientific inquiry."

Zuccolo hypothesizes that factors associated with height - not the height itself - could be risk factors for progression to fatal prostate cancer, and a plausible mechanism behind this association could be the insulin-like growth factor-1(IGF-1) system, which stimulates cell growth. "We do not believe that height itself matters in determining risk of prostate cancer or prostate cancer progression, but we speculate that factors that influence height may also influence cancer and height is therefore acting as a marker for the causal factors," Zuccolo explained.

Risk Of Prostate Cancer May Be Inherited
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Source: American Association for Cancer Research

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