A blog reader (thanks!) sent me the link (http://tinyurl.com/6cvgnv) to an interesting bit of statistical news. In an attempt to test the hypothesis that increasing obesity (=impaired immunity) might be a reason for the growing number of cases of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or NHL, the “European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition” (EPIC) examined hundreds of cases all over Europe.* The results were published in “Haematologica” in October 2008.
The study concluded that height is a multiple myeloma (and NHL) risk factor for women just as weight is for men. Doesn’t that sound peculiar?
The full study is available at the above link, so I will quote only some of the relevant bits, as follows: Height was associated with overall non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma in women (RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.14–1.98) for highest versus lowest quartile; p-trend < 0.01) but not in men. Neither obesity (weight and body mass index) nor abdominal fat (waist-to-hip ratio, waist or hip circumference) measures were positively associated with overall non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. This part then examines the risk associated with large B-cell lymphoma (heavier women are at risk) and follicular lymphoma (ditto for taller women).
MM has also been examined in a number of studies. In contrast to our finding of an elevated risk of MM among taller women, the Iowa women’s cohort study observed no association. Among men, the most prominent MM risk factors were weight, BMI and WC as categorized according to well-established definitions. (BMI=body mass index; WC=waist circumference.)
Factors that have been associated with multiple myeloma (MM) include high doses of ionizing radiation, and occupational exposure to products used in farming and petrochemical industries. Not my case, as far as I know.
In conclusion, the study found that height was a strong risk factor for NHL and MM risk in women.
A strong risk factor, eh? That’s quite a statement. My height would not get me into the book of Guinness World Records, but, growing up, I was always the tallest girl in my class. Always. This did not make me happy, mind you. In all of my (Italian) school photos, I am always stuck in the back with the tallest boys. All of the other girls were much shorter than I. And, come to think of it, so were most of the boys. A nightmare, back then. I am now 1.73 meters tall, which I think is about 5 foot 7 inches. Do I qualify as tall? Not sure. And why is tallness a risk factor for myeloma, anyway? The study doesn’t go into that, unless I missed a crucial part.
At any rate, according to this study, you are safe from developing multiple myeloma if you are a short, fat or thin woman, OR a thin, tall or short man…
*The EPIC is a multicenter prospective cohort study designed to examine the association between nutrition and cancer. […] participants were enrolled from the general population between 1993–1998 at 23 centers in ten European countries: Denmark (Åarhus, Copenhagen), France, Germany (Heidelberg, Potsdam), Greece, Italy (Florence, Varese, Ragusa, Turin, Naples), the Netherlands (Bilthoven, Utrecht), Norway (Lund), Spain (Asturias, Granada, Murcia, Navarra, San Sebastian), Sweden (Malmö, Umea) and the United Kingdom (Cambridge, Oxford).