Feature | March 16, 2012

World’s Tallest Man Stops Growing Thanks to Radiation Therapy

Guinness World Record holder for the tallest man, Sultan Kosen, underwent image-guided radiation therapy at the University of Virginia Medical Center to stop a tumor stop causing the overproduction of growth hormones in his pituitary gland. Photo by Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness World Records

March 16, 2012 – The current Guinness World Record holder for the tallest man, Sultan Kosen, won't be posting new records for height anymore, but that's just fine with him. Kosen appears to have stopped growing following radiation therapy treatment at the University of Virginia Medical Center (UVM), earning the medical center a mention in the 2012 Guinness World Records.

In May 2010, 8-foot-3-inch Sultan Kosen, age 29, of Turkey made his first visit to UVA for treatment by endocrinologist Mary Lee Vance, M.D.  Kosen suffers from acromegaly, which is usually caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland. The tumor causes a large amount of growth hormone to be produced, which can lead to gigantism if the excess growth hormone is produced before puberty begins. For 18 years, beginning at age 10, the tumor in Kosen's brain secreted enormous amounts of growth hormone.

The condition can cause a range of health problems, Vance says. “His skeleton just can’t support him,” she said.

Vance placed Kosen on a new medication that could potentially help control the production of growth hormone and stop his continued growth. Because Kosen’s pituitary tumor had spread to areas of his brain where doctors could not safely perform open surgery, UVA neurosurgeon Jason Sheehan, M.D., then performed Gamma Knife radiosurgery in August 2010.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a noninvasive procedure that delivers 192 focused, low-intensity radiation beams guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to a specific spot in a patient’s body – in this case, Kosen’s pituitary tumor.

About three months ago, Kosen’s doctors in Turkey told Sheehan that Kosen has stopped growing. “The treatments that we provided at the University of Virginia have stopped the production of his excess growth hormone and stopped the growth of the tumor itself,” Sheehan said.

Kosen’s listing in the 2012 edition of Guinness World Records cites his treatment at UVA, though Vance and Sheehan are happiest that they were able to provide effective care.

“Treating someone 8 feet 3 inches tall is no different from treating someone 5 feet 10 inches tall,” Vance said. “The important thing is to stop the production of the excess growth hormone.”

“I’m most pleased that we were able to help Sultan,” Sheehan added. “If he had continued to grow, it would have been life-threatening.”

For more information: www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/size/tallest-man-living, www.elekta.com

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