Tall men have a heightened risk of dying from aggressive prostate cancer, new research has shown.
British scientists found no association between height and overall prostate cancer risk, but a strong link with high-grade, deadly tumours.
Every extra 10cm (3.9 inches) in a man’s height led to a 21% increased risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer and a 17% greater chance of death from the disease, the study found.
A similar association was seen between waistline size and aggressive prostate cancer.
Lead researcher Dr Aurora Perez-Cornago, from Oxford University, said: “The finding of high risk in taller men may provide insights into the mechanisms underlying prostate cancer development, for example related to early nutrition and growth.
“We also found that a healthy body weight is associated with a reduced risk of high grade prostate cancer and death from prostate cancer years later. The observed links with obesity may be due to changes in hormone levels in obese men, which in turn may increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. However, the difference in prostate cancer may also be partly due to differences in prostate cancer detection in men with obesity.”
Each 10cm increase in waist circumference was associated with an 18% increased risk of dying from prostate cancer, and a 13% greater likelihood of having a high-grade disease.
The scientists drew on findings from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (Epic), a large scale study with 141,896 male participants from eight countries including the UK.
They analysed data on 7,024 prostate cancers, including 726 high grade and 1,388 advanced stage cancers, and 934 prostate cancer deaths.
Each year more than 46,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer and around 11,000 die from the disease.
Prostate cancer tumours can be slow growing “pussycats” or aggressive and potentially deadly “tigers”.
The link with height, reported in the journal BMC Medicine, only applied to cancers that fell into the “tiger” category.
Dr Perez-Cornago added: “These results emphasise the importance of studying risks for prostate cancer separately by stage and grade of tumour. They may also inform strategies for prevention, but we need to do further work to understand why the differences in risk exist.”
Dr Matthew Hobbs, deputy director of research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “It is certainly interesting that, according to this research, certain physical characteristics appear to increase a man’s likelihood of developing aggressive prostate cancer, as it might provide pointers to help uncover certain genetic markers and early developmental processes which hold significance in terms of causing the disease to develop.
“It also underlines once again the importance of living a healthy lifestyle to help defend against a host of diseases, including prostate cancer.”
Susannah Brown, senior scientist at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “This study supports our own research which also found an increased risk of prostate cancer in taller men. The link can be explained by thinking of height as a marker of the growth process that occurs earlier in life.