Height may affect risk of prostate cancer, new research says

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. According to the CDC, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the US, with more than 100,000 new cases diagnosed each year. We know age, race and family history can affect a man's risk, but now researchers say so can a man's height.

A recent study looked at height and body mass index to see how they might impact a man's risk of developing prostate cancer.

Doctor Eric Klein of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but says the results show that body size seems to impact the severity of the risk.

"It turns out that taller men, and men who have bigger body mass indexes are not, so much, at risk of any prostate cancer, but are at higher risk of high grade prostate cancer, and also are at higher risk of dying of prostate cancer," he says.

Dr. Klein says that previous research has shown a connection between obesity and the risk of developing high grade prostate cancer, however the relationship to height has not previously been noted. Researchers surveyed data from more than 100,000 men and found that for every 10 centimeters in height, the risk of developing an aggressive prostate cancer grew by 21 percent.

Dr. Klein says that there are several possible factors at play, including the fact that more body mass means more blood, which could dilute the results of a PSA blood test, and perhaps lead to a biopsy being performed at a later time.

Also, having more fat cells in the body, whether by being obese or tall, could have an impact on how aggressively a prostate cancer grows.

Dr. Klein says that while men can't do anything about their height, it's important to remember that they can do something about their weight to help control their risk.

"Maintaining a normal body mass index, exercising regularly, not over-eating calories, staying active, actually reduces your risk of getting the worst kind of prostate cancer, and if you do get it, makes it more likely that you will survive your prostate cancer," he says.

Dr. Klein says that prostate cancer screening should be a discussion that men have regularly with their doctor. He reminds men that healthy habits that are good for their heart and general health are also good for prostate health.