Index finger length may indicate prostate cancer risk

Magnification of prostate cancer cells.

A close-up of prostate cancer cells. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/NASA)

Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate gland, which is part of the male reproductive system. It grows slowly and can easily spread to a man’s bones and lymph nodes. Scientists have traditionally pointed to diet and genetic inheritance as the two key factors that can lead to onset of the disease, and a new risk factor related to the latter may have been discovered, according to new study published in the British Journal of Cancer. It appears that the length of a man’s index finger may be a signpost for a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer study involves length of right index finger

According to a study of 1,524 prostate cancer patients and 3,044 healthy males 15 and older, index finger measurement is significant. If a man’s index finger is longer than the ring finger of the same hand, he is at lower risk of developing prostate cancer. The reverse indicated increased risk, specifically a 33 percent greater chance. Within the study group, 23 percent had longer index fingers, while 57 percent were shorter. The remainder had index and ring fingers of relatively equal length.

The findings of the study generally supported a similar previous study of 366 Korean men and their digit lengths. In general, men younger than 60 are 87 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Testosterone and estrogen exposure

Finger length is determined before a child is born, and scientists speculate that the amount of testosterone present helps determine the length. If too much testosterone is present, it seems more likely that index fingers will grow shorter than ring fingers and hence that person is at greater risk of prostate cancer. Similarly, in women the amount of estrogen present at birth is believed to have an impact on the future likelihood of breast cancer.

While the index finger indicator could serve as a simple signpost for cancer, a significant number of scientists believe that the findings of the prostate cancer study are too simplistic. Other factors may very well be involved, and the methodology of the study has been questioned. Apparently, participants self-reported their finger lengths, which increases the possibility of error significantly.


Wall Street Journal

News coverage of prostate cancer study

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