Long legs beautiful? Perhaps, but according to a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting the long-legged have a 42 percent higher risk of developing bowel cancer.
Lead author of the study Guillaume Onyeaghala has two hypotheses that may explain the association. One idea is that because taller people have longer colons they have more chances to develop the condition. The other suggestion is that increased levels of growth hormones — which affect leg length in particular — are also the driving factor for colorectal cancer. The growth hormone IGF-1 is elevated during puberty, and has been shown to be a risk factor for colorectal cancers at high levels, the study said. Onyeaghala looked at data on participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, a long-running cohort of more than 14,500 men and women. Specifically, the new study examined three aspects of the participants’ height: overall height, torso height and leg length. Researchers also looked at how many participants developed colorectal cancer over the nearly 20-year study period. The only factor that was linked to people’s colon cancer risk was their leg length; the researchers did not find a significant link between people’s overall height or torso height and their cancer risk, Onyeaghala said. The results support the hypothesis that the growth factors that drive bone growth in the legs are a risk factor for the disease.