Study suggests finger length linked to prostate cancer risk

In collaboration with Adfero

Men whose index fingers are longer than their ring fingers appear to have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, UK scientists have found.

A study led by the University of Warwick and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), and part-funded by Cancer Research UK, looked at more than 1,500 prostate cancer patients and more than 3,000 healthy volunteers.

Participants were shown images of different finger length patterns and were asked to identify the image that was closest to their own right hand.

The majority of men in the study had a shorter index than ring finger.

Researchers found that men with this finger length pattern and those whose index and ring fingers were the same length had a similar risk of prostate cancer.

But men whose index fingers were longer than their ring fingers were 33 per cent less likely to have prostate cancer than those with other finger length patterns.

In men under the age of 60 years, those with longer index fingers were 87 per cent less likely to have prostate cancer than those with other patterns.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the British Journal of Cancer, believe the link may be due to different degrees of exposure to sex hormones in the womb.

The relative length of index and ring fingers is thought to be determined by levels of sex hormones, with less testosterone associated with longer index fingers. Less testosterone in the womb may also have a protective effect against prostate cancer in later life.

Professor Ken Muir, joint senior author at the University of Warwick, said: "Our study indicates it is the hormone levels that babies are exposed to in the womb that can have an effect, decades later. As our research continues, we will be able to look at a further range of factors that may be involved in the make-up of the disease."

Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's senior science information officer, said: "This study finds an association between finger length ratio and prostate cancer risk, but it doesn't really tell us whether the ratio can be used to reliably predict that risk in the wider population.

"We encourage men to know what is normal for them, and to visit their GP promptly if they experience any persistent difficulty or pain when passing urine."

References

  • Rahman, A. et al (2010). Hand pattern indicates prostate cancer risk British Journal of Cancer DOI: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605986