They have more cells and thus more opportunity for mutations which could lead to a malignancy

The taller you are the greater your risk of developing cancer, research has shown.

Tall people have more cells in their body, including stem cells, and thus more opportunities for mutations to occur which could lead to the development of a malignant growth.

Hormones in childhood and adult life may also be relevant, along with genetic and environmental influences, diet and childhood infections.

Researchers from the University of Oxford, together with colleagues from Spain, examined evidence from the Million Women study linking height and cancer. The results showed that long-legged women are a third more likely to develop cancer than the more petite.

The association applied across a wide range of cancers and to women with different lifestyles and from different economic backgrounds. They showed that the risk of cancer rises by 16 per cent on average for every 10cm (4in) increase in height.

Although the research was conducted among women, the findings apply equally to men.

Jane Green, of the cancer epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, who led the study published in Lancet Oncology, said: "There is no reason to think that the effects are any different in men. This is a really widespread consistent thing."

The Million Women study was launched in the 1990s and included 1.3 million women in the UK who were studied for the effects of a range of influences on their health, including the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Over a decade of follow-up, 97,000 cases of cancer were recorded.

Dr Green said: "The link between greater height and increased total cancer risk is similar across many different populations."