Background: Observational studies examining associations between adult height and risk of colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers have generated mixed results. We conducted meta-analyses using data from prospective cohort studies and further carried out Mendelian randomization analyses, using height-associated genetic variants identified in a genome-wide association study (GWAS), to evaluate the association of adult height with these cancers.
Methods and findings: A systematic review of prospective studies was conducted using the PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases. Using meta-analyses, results obtained from 62 studies were summarized for the association of a 10-cm increase in height with cancer risk. Mendelian randomization analyses were conducted using summary statistics obtained for 423 genetic variants identified from a recent GWAS of adult height and from a cancer genetics consortium study of multiple cancers that included 47,800 cases and 81,353 controls. For a 10-cm increase in height, the summary relative risks derived from the meta-analyses of prospective studies were 1.12 (95% CI 1.10, 1.15), 1.07 (95% CI 1.05, 1.10), and 1.06 (95% CI 1.02, 1.11) for colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers, respectively. Mendelian randomization analyses showed increased risks of colorectal (odds ratio [OR] = 1.58, 95% CI 1.14, 2.18) and lung cancer (OR = 1.10, 95% CI 1.00, 1.22) associated with each 10-cm increase in genetically predicted height. No association was observed for prostate cancer (OR = 1.03, 95% CI 0.92, 1.15). Our meta-analysis was limited to published studies. The sample size for the Mendelian randomization analysis of colorectal cancer was relatively small, thus affecting the precision of the point estimate.
Conclusions: Our study provides evidence for a potential causal association of adult height with the risk of colorectal and lung cancers and suggests that certain genetic factors and biological pathways affecting adult height may also affect the risk of these cancers.