I just came across a NY Times blog article that warned me, “Height Linked With Prostate Cancer Risk.” Ok, well it didn’t really warn me, since I don’t have a prostate… but, not to worry, it did provide me with my very own gender-specific threat near the end, “A woman’s height also is associated with breast cancer risk. Women who are 5-feet-9 or taller have a small increase in risk of both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer compared to women 5-feet-3 or shorter.”
Argghhh… this is the second day in a row that I have been threatened with crazy cancer statistics. Yesterday, at the dentist, I was given some literature on oral cancer and a waiver to sign if I wanted to do the uber-technologically advanced oral cancer screening. The first item listed under the “elevated risk factors” for oral cancer was the age group “18-35”. So, this form was telling me that the moment I hit 18, I was in the “elevated risk factors” category for oral cancer. This really ticked me off. Is it really ethical to use such a general population group (age 18+) to justify cancer screenings? In my opinion, it’s a sick way to encourage people to spend a few more bucks.
The NY Times blog article reported the following results from the height and prostate study, “Using the shortest men as a baseline, the study showed that risk increased 6 percent for every additional 4 inches in height…. The report… showed an even stronger association between height and aggressive cancers.”
Awesome, so now the threat is heightened (sorry about the pun)- not only are tall people more prone to cancer, but they’re probably going to get the “worst” kinds too. The funny thing about this NY Times article (and the study itself), is that these results were even published. As quoted above, the increased risk was reported as 6% for every 4 additional inches in height. An increased risk of 6% can be pretty easy to attain simply depending on how you fool with your sample size, population, etc. Additionally, a 4 inch height difference is quite a span for a measly 6% (you can find the original study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention here).
The title of the NY Times article and the study itself are simply out to grab attention. Likely, it’s not height that increases cancer risk, but some other factor that may come along with height. I’m reminded of this statistic: When ice cream sales increase, murder rates also increase. So, should we do away with Laloos Goat’s Milk Ice Cream (Black mission fig- my personal fave)? No, there are other factors involved here; ice cream sales increase during the summer when the days are hot. Heat and other factors of summer increase the likelihood of physical violence and homicides.
So, don’t stress about height, the ages 18-35 or ice cream… well, maybe just go easy on the ice cream.
Breathe in, Peace out…