Taller Women Are At ‘Higher Risk Of Ovarian Cancer' Study Claims

The Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 4/04/2012 13:39 Updated: 4/04/2012 14:27

Tall Women Ovarian Cancer Risk

According to a team of Oxford academics, women blessed in the height department have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Researchers from Oxford University studied the data from 47 different papers, which investigated the link between ovarian cancer and height.

They discovered that for every 5cm a woman grows, her chances of being struck down with ovarian cancer in her lifetime increases by 7%.

The research, published in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, looked at the records of over 25,000 women with ovarian cancer and compared them with 80,000 healthy ‘controls’.

The study authors also noted that a link between weight and ovarian risk was also discovered by the height was a more significant find, as the average woman’s height is increasing by 1cm each decade.

Although scientists weren’t 100% clear on the cause, they claimed it could be down to tall women having more cells in the body, which can become cancerous.

Commenting on their findings, the researchers wrote in the journal: "The increase in ovarian cancer risk with increasing height and with increasing body mass index did not vary materially by women's age, year of birth, ethnicity, education, age at menarche, parity, family history of ovarian or breast cancer, use of oral contraceptives, menopausal status, hysterectomy, or consumption of alcohol and tobacco.”

However, researchers added that the risk shouldn’t cause too much panic, as height only makes a marginal difference in general.

“The absolute risk is small. The shorter woman will have a lifetime risk of about 16 in 1000, which increases to 20 in 1000 for a taller woman,” adds Dr. Paul Pharoah, a cancer expert from Cambridge, reports the Telegraph.

Sarah Williams, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, told HuffPost Lifestyle: "This study included as much evidence as possible to produce a clearer picture of the factors that can affect a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer, and found that body size was important.

“Women can reduce their risk of this and many other diseases by keeping to a healthy weight. For women trying to lose weight, the best method is to eat healthily, eat smaller amounts and be more physically active."

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women, with more than 6,5000 cases diagnosed each year.

Recently, the Ovarian Cancer Action revealed that British women are lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to beating ovarian cancer. According to the widespread study, one woman dies from the disease every two hours in the UK.

Dr Rob Hicks told HuffPost Lifestyle: “I think the British women are lagging behind primarily because of the lack of awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, when the cancer is diagnosed in the UK, in the majority of cases, the disease has already spread throughout the body, so it’s far more difficult to treat.”

To find out more about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, how it is detected and what treatment is available, have a look at our round-up of everything you need to know about the disease.

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  • How To Reduce Your Ovarian Cancer Risk

  • Breastfeed Your Baby

    Breastfeeding can help reduce ovarian cancer risk as it causes the body to release fewer eggs from the ovaries, meaning the ovaries are less exposed to damage, which can lead to cancer," explains <a href="http://www.drrobhicks.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Dr Rob Hicks</a>. "Definitely another good reason to breastfeed if you're a new mother."

  • Increase Vitamin D

    According to Bupa, increasing your vitamin D intake can help reduce your ovarian cancer risk, as a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to the cancer developing. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/28/kellogs-plan-to-add-vitamins-to-popular-cereals_n_1063274.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to top up your vitamin D levels with these foods</a>.

  • Taking The Contraceptive Pill

    "Doctors believe that ovarian cancer is related to how many times you ovulate (release one or more eggs from one of your ovaries), in your life," says Dr Annabel Bentley, from <a href="http://www.bupa.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Bupa</a>. "You ovulate during each menstrual cycle but the contraceptive pill prevents ovulation, so the fewer cycles you have, the lower your risk of ovarian cancer."

  • Healthy Diet

    "Maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking are the most effective ways a woman can reduce their risk," says <a href="http://www.drrobhicks.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Dr Rob Hicks</a>. Eating foods rich in flavonoids is also a good way of reducing ovarian cancer risks. According to the <a href="http://www.aicr.org/" target="_hplink">American Institute for Cancer Research</a>, flavonoids such as kaempferol (found in tea, broccoli, kale and spinach) and luteolin (found in peppers, carrots, cabbage and celery) are both great cancer preventatives, especially effective with ovarian cancer.

  • Exercise

    According to the <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/%28SICI%291099-095X%28199809/10%299:5%3C495::AID-ENV318%3E3.0.CO;2-H/abstract" target="_hplink">Canadian National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System </a>(NECSS), moderate and regular exercise greatly reduces ovarian risk in women. They claim that it's because regular exercise boosts the body's immune system and decreases the chance of obesity.