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Title: Gigantism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hyperpituitarism, Adam Rainer, Ferragut, André the Giant, Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome
Collection: Growth Disorders, Growth Hormones, Human Height, Neuroendocrinology, People with Gigantism
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Robert Wadlow, the tallest man known to have lived (2.72 metres or 8 feet 11 inches) with his father, Harold Wadlow (1.82 metres or 6 feet 0 inches)
Classification and external resources
Specialty Endocrinology
ICD-10 E22.0, E34.4
ICD-9-CM 253.0
DiseasesDB 30730
MedlinePlus 001174
MeSH D005877

Gigantism, also known as giantism (from Greek γίγας gigas, "giant", plural γίγαντες gigantes), is a condition characterized by excessive growth and height significantly above average. In humans, this condition is caused by over-production of growth hormone[1] in childhood resulting in persons between 2.13 m (7 feet or 84 inches) and 2.74 m (9 feet or 108 inches) in height.


  • Terminology 1
  • Diagnosis 2
  • Society and culture 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Giantess Anna Swan with her parents

The term is typically applied to those whose height is not just in the upper 1% of the population but several standard deviations above mean for persons of the same sex, age, and ethnic ancestry. The term is seldom applied to those who are simply "tall" or "above average" whose heights appear to be the healthy result of normal genetics and nutrition. Gigantism is usually caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland of the brain. It causes growth of the hands, face, and feet.[2] In some cases the condition can be passed on genetically through a mutated gene.[3]

Other names somewhat obsolete for this pathology are hypersoma (Greek: hyper over the normal level; soma body) and somatomegaly (Greek; soma body, genitive somatos of the body; megas, gen. megalou great). In the past, while many of them were social outcasts because of their height, some (usually unintentionally) found employment in Friedrich Wilhelm I's famous Potsdam Giants regiment.

Many of those who have been identified with gigantism have suffered from multiple health issues involving their circulatory or skeletal system.

Giant Gonzales (1966–2010) was a wrestler with gigantism, like wrestlers Andre Rene Roussimoff and Dalip Singh. In this photo, Gonzalez, in "muscle" design attire, stands in front of 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) tall rival "The Undertaker".


Hypersecretion of growth hormone causes gigantism in children and acromegaly in adults. Evaluation of growth hormone hypersecretion cannot be excluded with a single normal GH level due to diurnal variation. However, a random blood sample showing markedly elevated GH is adequate for diagnosis of GH hypersecretion. Additionally, a high-normal GH level that fails to suppress with administration of glucose is also sufficient for a diagnosis of GH hypersecretion.[4]

Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) is an excellent test for evaluation of GH hypersecretion. It does not undergo diurnal variation and will thus be consistently elevated in GH hypersecretion and therefore patients with gigantism. A single normal IGF-1 value will reliably exclude GH hypersecretion.[5]

Society and culture

Reports of gigantism exist throughout history, with some nations and tribes taller than others. The giants of Crete are listed in various historic sources, beginning with Titan, a Greek mythological giant, and including Gigantus, after whom giants and gigantism are named. Rhodes is another island where giants were said to have lived, with the Colossus of Rhodes, a giant statue of a giant patron god Helios. Goliath, a giant mentioned in the Bible, was a Philistine warrior who was killed by David in a battle between the Israelites and the Philistines. A member of Goliath's family is also recorded as having six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Gigantism" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ "Gigantism". Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  3. ^ In a Giant’s Story, a New Chapter Writ by His DNA - By Gina Kolata. The New York Times, January 5, 2011
  4. ^ De Mais, Daniel. ASCP Quick Compendium of Clinical Pathology, 2nd Ed. ASCP Press, Chicago, 2009.
  5. ^ De Mais, Daniel. ASCP Quick Compendium of Clinical Pathology, 2nd Ed. ASCP Press, Chicago, 2009.
  6. ^ Story of Goliath in 1Samuel 17 – 6 fingers in 1 Chronicles 20:6 cf. 2Samuel 21:20-22

External links

  • Acromegaly and Gigantism article
  • Brief overview of overgrowth syndromes in childhood PDF (2.95 MB)
  • Gigantism Clinical Trials from U.S. National Institutes of Health
  • Gigantism information from U.S. National Library of Medicine, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & the National Institutes of Health
  • Epidemiology and Pathophysiology info for Healthcare Professionals
  • Epidemiology of acromegaly from US National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health
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