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Ovarian Cancer is More Likely to Occur in Tall Women

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One of the most deadly cancers in females is ovarian cancer. The cause of ovarian cancer is a mystery and there is no effective screening test.

The majority of women present late. By the time diagnosis is made, the cancer has usually spread.

Some experts believe that body features like an increased BMI, may be a risk factor for ovarian cancerbut the evidence is conflicting.

For some time researchers have been trying to look at physical features and determine if they are associated with a risk for ovarian cancer.

Now one of the largest epidemiology studies from Oxford University indicates that height may be a risk factor associated with ovarian cancer. (1)

The researchers, led by Professor Valerie Beral of the Oxford University Epidemiology Unit, looked at 47 large epidemiological studies from 14 countries. They evaluated close to 25,000 women with ovarian cancer and more than 80,000 women without ovarian cancer.

What they observed was the following:

• There is a slight risk of developing ovarian cancer for every 5 cm (about 2 inches) increase in height. This is after taking into account other factors such as smoking, age and amount of alcohol consumed.

• There was a slight increase in the risk of ovarian cancer in women with a higher BMI, and in women who had never taken hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Prof Valeria Beral stated that there was a clear link between obesity and ovarian cancer.

Like may other disorders, it appears that obesity is an important factor for development of certain cancers. (2)

It is now appreciated that body size is one factor which can be altered. While women may not be able to alter their height, they certainly can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by getting rid of the excess weight.

The researchers do not have any single solution in mind, but they recommend that women who want to lose weight should eat healthy, eat small amounts and become more physically active.

What women should know is that losing weight not only decreases risk of many other cancers, but it also lessens morbidity of high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. It also improves confidence and self-esteem.


1. Ovarian Cancer and Body Size: Individual Participant Meta-Analysis Including 25,157 Women with Ovarian Cancer from 47 Epidemiological Studies. Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Abstract: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001200

2. Lahmann PH.et al. Anthropometric measures and epithelial ovarian cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Int J Cancer. 2010 May 15;126(10):2404-15. Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19821492

Reviewed April 9, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jessica Obert

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