Childhood growth and adult cancer

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Jun;16(2):225-41. doi: 10.1053/beem.2002.0204.


Associations between different patterns of childhood growth and later adult health have recently received much attention. Most studies have found higher mortality in shorter people, explained by their higher incidence of cardiorespiratory disease. In this chapter, associations of cancer with markers of growth at different developmental phases - infancy, childhood and puberty - and with final adult height are reviewed. The relationship between birthweight and cancer is generally positive, with the greatest risk among high-birthweight babies. Childhood and adult tallness are related to higher cancer risk. This is particularly evident for cancers of the breast, prostate, colo-rectum, haematopoietic system and endometrium. Leg length may be more strongly associated than trunk length with cancer risk. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed in relation to nutritional intake and hormonal levels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Height
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Endocrine System Diseases
  • Growth*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Puberty
  • Risk Factors