SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — We all know smoking, drinking and being overweight increases your risk of cancer. Add to that list: Being tall.

A new report published in The Lancet finds taller women are actually at increased risk for a wide variety of cancers.

British researchers looked at more than 1 million women around the world and found taller women were at higher risk of all kinds of cancers. Those include cancers of the breast, ovary, and uterus, as well as colon cancer, leukemia and malignant melanoma.

Every 4 inch increase in height increases the risk by about 16 percent.

CBS 5 HealthWatch talked to Dr. Robert Hiatt, an epidemiologist at UCSF, about the findings.

“In my view, it’s not a large risk,” Hiatt said. He said while the risk is real, it’s pretty small.

To reduce your risk of cancer, he said, don’t sweat your height. Hiatt said to eat a healthy diet, exercise and don’t smoke.

“Maybe if women are on a little taller side they have to pay more attention to those exact recommendations, but not to change anything I would say.” Hiatt remarked.

Hiatt said these findings may help scientists better understand what cancer is and when it starts.

“Instead of thinking about what we’re exposed to as adults that may lead to cancer, this turns our attention to what may be going on earlier in life,” said Hiatt.

As to why a higher risk? No one knows for sure.

The researchers say taller people have more cells and more stem cells, and thus they have more cell turnover. But it could also be due to environmental factors, including childhood nutrition and illnesses.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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