BETHESDA, MD – Is taller adult height associated with an increased risk of some non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes?

An international study led by the National Cancer Institute and partially funded by the VA’s research service sought to determine how height, which is largely determined by genetic factors, contributes to NHL risk.

In the article published in Frontiers of Oncology, researchers sought to tease out the relationship between genetic determinants of height and NHL risk using data from eight genome-wide association studies (GWAS) comprising 10,629 NHL cases, including 3,857 diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), 2,847 follicular lymphoma (FL), 3,100 chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and 825 marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) cases, and 9,505 controls of European ancestry.1

Results indicated suggestive evidence between taller genetically determined height and increased CLL risk (OR = 1.08, 95% CI = 1.00–1.17, p = 0.049). Interestingly, that risk was found to be slightly stronger among women (OR = 1.15, 95% CI: 1.01–1.31, p = 0.036).

On the other hand, no significant associations were observed with DLBCL, FL, or MZL.

“Our findings suggest that there may be some shared genetic factors between CLL and height, but other endogenous or environmental factors may underlie reported epidemiologic height associations with other subtypes,” the authors concluded.

Background information in the article pointed out that taller adult height has been associated with an increased risk of several subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma but that results have not been consistent across studies for common subtypes, including CLL.

The authors also note that taller height has also been positively associated with other cancers, although “the underlying reason or biological mechanism for these associations is not understood. Adult attained height is not thought to be causally related to cancer, but instead thought to be a marker of other biological influences, including hormonal and growth factors, cellular divisions, and nutrition during formative years, that may contribute to cancer risk over the life course of an individual.”

  1. Moore A, Kane E, Wang Z, et al. Genetically Determined Height and Risk of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Front Oncol. 2020;9:1539. Published 2020 Jan 28. doi:10.3389/fonc.2019.01539