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Esophageal Cancer Risk Greater in Shorter People, Study Reports

Update Date: Sep 25, 2014 04:14 PM EDT

People's risk of esophageal cancer, which is cancer of the esophagus, also known as the tube that allows food to move from the mouth to the stomach, might be linked to their height, a new study reported. According to a research team, people who were shorter were more likely to get Barrett's esophagus, which is a condition that can lead to esophageal cancer, and the actual cancer as well in comparison to people who were taller.

For this study, the team analyzed information collected from 14 population-based epidemiologic studies taken from the International Barrett's and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Consortium (BEACON). The data included around 1,000 cases of cancer, about 2,000 cases of Barrett's esophagus and around 2,000 controls. Barrett's esophagus is a disorder that occurs when the esophagus gets damaged by stomach acid. After conducting many different analyses, the team concluded that the risks of esophageal cancer and Barrett's esophagus had inverse relationships with one's height.

"Individuals in the lowest quartile of height (under 5'7" for men and 5'2" for women) were roughly twice as likely as individuals in the highest quartile of height (taller than 6' for men and 5'5" for women) to have Barrett's esophagus or esophageal cancer," said Aaron P. Thrift, PhD, lead study author from the Public Health Sciences Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, reported in the press release. "Interestingly, the relationship between height and esophageal cancer is opposite from many other cancers - including colorectal, prostate and breast - where greater height is associated with an increased risk."

The researchers found that the two relationships stayed strong after factoring in sex, age, education, smoking, body mass index, abdominal obesity, and GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) symptoms. The researchers hope that their study's findings will help doctors more accurately access people's risk for cancer.

The study, "Risk of Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Decreases With Height, Based on Consortium Analysis and Confirmed by Mendelian Randomization," was published in the American Gastroenterological Association's journal, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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