By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Sultan Kosen has been named the world's tallest living man by Guinness World Records for three consecutive years. In the last three months, the 29-year-old Turkish man has only recently stopped growing thanks to receiving treatment in the U.S.
He entered the record books at 8 feet 1 inch; at his next measurement, he was listed as 8 feet 2 inches, and now he's achieved his ultimate adult height at 8 feet 3 inches. He's also in the record books for having the largest hands (11.22 inches) and largest feet (14.4 inches).
Kosen's extraordinary stature is a result of gigantism or acromegaly. He developed a pituitary tumor as a child, which caused his pituitary gland to produce an excessive amount of growth hormone. According to Dr. Mary Lee Vance, an endocrinologist at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, Va, “That tumor is not cancerous and it is not a brain tumor… A spontaneous mutation causes the tumor, and it's not hereditary.” She added that Kosen's parents and siblings are all average height. Vance first learned of Kosen's case and first saw him as a patient in the spring of 2010.
Vance was asked to appear on a Discovery Channel show on him. She put Kosen on a new medication to try to bring down his growth hormone levels to a normal range. Although his pituitary tumor was diagnosed when Kosen was 10 years old, efforts in his native Turkey and elsewhere in Europe to stop the tumor's growth were unsuccessful. He had three prior surgeries attempting to remove the tumor as well as radiation treatment, but Kosen kept growing and growing.
“As he was growing taller and taller, he kept getting sicker and sicker,” says Dr. Jason Sheehan, a neurosurgeon at the University of Virginia Health System, who also treated Kosen. “He had a very aggressive tumor involving the base of his skull and brain that was in a very difficult location to remove,” he explains.