Risk of oesophageal cancer decreases with height

Taller individuals are less likely to develop oesophageal cancer and its precursor, Barrett's oesophagus, according to a new study.

PTI| Updated: Sep 27, 2014, 19:31 PM IST

Washington: Taller individuals are less likely to develop oesophageal cancer and its precursor, Barrett's oesophagus, according to a new study.

"Individuals in the lowest quartile of height (under 5 feet 7 inches for men and 5 feet 2 inches for women) were roughly twice as likely as individuals in the highest quartile of height (taller than 6 feet for men and 5 feet 5 inches for women) to have Barrett's oesophagus or esophageal cancer," said Aaron P Thrift, lead study author from the Public Health Sciences Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in US.

"Interestingly, the relationship between height and oesophageal cancer is opposite from many other cancers including colorectal, prostate and breast where greater height is associated with an increased risk," said Thrift.

Researchers conducted a large pooled analysis using data from 14 population-based epidemiologic studies within the International Barrett's and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Consortium (BEACON), including 1,000 cases of esophageal cancer and twice as many cases of Barrett's oesophagus, and twice as many controls.

The researchers conducted multiple analyses, including using Mendelian randomisation (which incorporates genetic information with traditional approaches) to overcome issues of confounding and bias.

The results from all analyses consistently demonstrated an inverse association between height and Barrett's oesophagus or esophageal cancer.

There were no differences in these estimates based on sex, age, education, smoking, GERD symptoms or body mass index. Adjusting for abdominal obesity yielded similar results.

"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," added Thrift.

The researchers report no obvious explanation for the association between short height and Barrett's oesophagus or esophageal cancer.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.