Tall men are at significantly increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer (PCa), especially if they are younger than 65 years, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer (2009;101:522-525).

The prospective study, led by Jiyoung Ahn, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the New York University School of Medicine, analyzed data from 34,268 men who took part in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Of 2,144 men diagnosed with PCa, 912 (43%) had aggressive disease.

Greater height was not associated with an increased risk of PCa overall, but men who were at least six feet, three inches tall had a 39% increased risk for aggressive PCa compared with men who were no taller than five feet, seven inches. This association held true for both high-grade and high-stage disease.

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Each 5-cm increment in height was associated with a 5% increased risk of aggressive PCa. Furthermore, among men younger than age 65, those who were at least six feet, three inches tall had a 76% increased risk of aggressive PCa compared with those no taller than five feet, seven inches.

Luisa Zuccolo, MSc, of the University of Bristol in the U.K., who led a previous study that found an association between increased height and high-grade prostate cancer (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008;17:2325-2336), said the new study provides independent replication of her team’s results, but it does not shed light on the reasons for the association.

“We need more studies to explore the underlying mechanisms that could explain this link,” Zuccolo commented.

“We do not believe that height itself matters in determining the risk of prostate cancer, or aggressive prostate cancer in particular, but we speculate that factors that influence height may also influence cancer, and height is therefore acting as a marker for these underlying causal factors.”

Dr. Ahn’s team plans to evaluate whether gene variants associated with height are also linked to the development of aggressive PCa.