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According to a recent article published in Cancer Causes and Control, both height and weight may affect the risk of developing colorectal cancer in men and women.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. The disease develops in the large intestine, which includes the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) and the rectum (the last several inches).

Because cure rates are high when colorectal cancer is detected and treated early and fall dramatically once the cancer has spread, researchers have been evaluating factors that may place patients at a higher risk of developing the disease. Individuals considered to be at a higher risk may be more inclined to undergo screening procedures.

Researchers from Norway recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate possible associations between height, weight and the risk of developing colorectal cancer. This study included two million men and women whose height and weight were measured. During follow-up, over 47,000 had developed colorectal cancer.

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Increases in weight and height were both associated with increased risk of developing colorectal cancer:

• The risk of colorectal cancer was increased with each increased measure of weight in men.

• A rare but deadly type of colorectal cancer, mucinous colorectal cancer, was found more often with increased weight in both men and women.

• The risk of colorectal cancer was increased with increased height in both men and women.

• The risk of gallbladder cancer was also increased with increased weight in women.

The researchers concluded that both height and weight play a role in the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Patients in the upper ranges of both height and weight would benefit from particular diligence in following screening guidelines for colorectal cancer.

Reference: Engeland A, Tretli S, Austad G, Bjorge T. Height and Body Mass Index in Relation to Colorectal and Gallbladder Cancer in Two Million Norwegian Men and Women. Cancer Causes and Control. 2005; 16: 987 – 996.

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