Background The extent to which adult height, a biomarker of the interplay of genetic endowment and early-life experiences, is related to risk of chronic diseases in adulthood is uncertain.
Methods We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) for height, assessed in increments of 6.5 cm, using individual–participant data on 174 374 deaths or major non-fatal vascular outcomes recorded among 1 085 949 people in 121 prospective studies.
Results For people born between 1900 and 1960, mean adult height increased 0.5–1 cm with each successive decade of birth. After adjustment for age, sex, smoking and year of birth, HRs per 6.5 cm greater height were 0.97 (95% confidence interval: 0.96–0.99) for death from any cause, 0.94 (0.93–0.96) for death from vascular causes, 1.04 (1.03–1.06) for death from cancer and 0.92 (0.90–0.94) for death from other causes. Height was negatively associated with death from coronary disease, stroke subtypes, heart failure, stomach and oral cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mental disorders, liver disease and external causes. In contrast, height was positively associated with death from ruptured aortic aneurysm, pulmonary embolism, melanoma and cancers of the pancreas, endocrine and nervous systems, ovary, breast, prostate, colorectum, blood and lung. HRs per 6.5 cm greater height ranged from 1.26 (1.12–1.42) for risk of melanoma death to 0.84 (0.80–0.89) for risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. HRs were not appreciably altered after further adjustment for adiposity, blood pressure, lipids, inflammation biomarkers, diabetes mellitus, alcohol consumption or socio-economic indicators.
Conclusion Adult height has directionally opposing relationships with risk of death from several different major causes of chronic diseases.