Length of fingers linked to cancer risk


Men with long index fingers are at lower risk of prostate cancer, a study has found.

Scientists in the UK who compared the hands of 1,500 prostate cancer patients and 3,000 healthy men found that those whose index finger was longer than their ring finger were 33 per cent less likely to develop the potentially fatal disease.

The reason is thought to be hormonal influences in the womb.

"Relative finger length could be used as a simple test for prostate cancer risk," said Ros Eeles, one of the study's lead authors and a researcher who investigates links between genetic makeup and tumors at London's Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), in a statement. The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer today.

Finger length is set before birth, influenced by the level of sex hormones babies are exposed to in the womb, researchers from the ICR and the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, said in the statement. A longer index finger points to less testosterone, which may protect against cancer later in life, they said.

"Our study indicates it is the hormone levels that babies are exposed to in the womb that can have an effect decades later," Ken Muir of the University of Warwick, the study's other lead author, said.

"As our research continues, we will be able to look at a further range of factors that may be involved in the makeup of the disease," he added.

In 2004, scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the US National Institute of Aging in 2004 found that men with high blood levels of testosterone were at increased risk of prostate cancer.

In the study published today, more than half of the men had an index shorter than the ring finger.

Those whose two fingers were about equal had a similar prostate cancer risk, the researchers found.