Study: Long Legs Identified as Cancer Risk

Tall women and those who put on weight are more likely to develop deadly melanoma, according to a study by Australian scientists; it is being reported by

Researchers are puzzled by the results of a major review of skin cancer patterns that found women's body size appears to be linked to their disease risk.

The team from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research reviewed eight studies involving almost 5,000 women, including half with melanoma.

They found that the tallest one-quarter of individuals in the study were 30 percent more likely to have melanoma than shorter women.

"We found this risk greater among women less than 50 years of age," said study leader Dr. Catherine Olsen, who collaborated with researchers in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Italy.

Other studies have suggested that taller women are also more likely to develop breast and colon cancer.

The researchers, writing in the International Journal of Cancer, said the association between height and cancer risk was not clear.

Height could be related to hormones that may play a role in the development of cancer, they said.

It could also be a marker for extra calories consumed in growth periods like adolescence, a suggested cancer risk seen in animal research.

Olsen said it might even be that taller women spend more time in the sun, although there is little proof of this.

The study, which involved 2,083 women with melanoma and 2,782 healthy controls, also found that putting on 4 pounds or more boosted melanoma risk by 50 percent. Olsen said weight gain could contribute to risk by affecting hormone metabolism.

The team called for similar studies to identify the links between body size and cancer risk in men.

Cancer Council Australia Chief Executive Professor Ian Olver said it would be difficult to establish the factors in height and weight gain that were linked to disease, but it was likely related to a third factor such as hormones, diet or increased body surface area.

Melanoma is most prevalent in Australia and New Zealand.

The strongest risk factors are severe and repeated sun exposure, and pale skin, as well as a rare genetic association, Olver said.