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Leg length and risk of cancer in the Boyd Orr cohort

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7169.1350 (Published 14 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1350
  1. D J Gunnell, senior lecturer in epidemiology and public health medicine (d.j.gunnell@bristol.ac.uk)a,
  2. G Davey Smith, professor of clinical epidemiologya,
  3. J M P Holly, professor of clinical sciencesb,
  4. S Frankel, professor of epidemiology and public health medicinea
  1. aDepartment of Social Medicine Canynge Hall, Bristol BS8 2PR
  2. bDivision of Surgery University of Bristol, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol BS2 8HW
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gunnell
  • Accepted 28 July 1998

Editorial by Albanes

Height is directly associated with mortality from cancer,1 but the explanation for this association is unclear. Whereas adult height is a marker of nutrition and health throughout childhood, most growth before puberty is due to increases in leg length. Leg length can therefore be used as a marker for exposures that generate the association between adult height and cancer. 1 2 We examined the association between prepubertal leg length and mortality from cancer in the Boyd Orr cohort. 2 3

Subjects, methods, and results

As childhood height is affected by the timing of puberty we restricted our analysis to study members who were aged 2-8 years when their height and leg length were measured. In all, 1167 of these 1392 subjects (84%) were traced and had information on childhood and adult socioeconomic status, and they form the basis of this analysis. Using Cox's proportional hazards models we examined mortality from cancer between 1948 and 1997 in relation to internally derived z scores for childhood leg length.2 All traced subjects were included in these models up to the time …

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