Dangerous Growth Stopped for World's Tallest Man
The world's tallest living man Sultan Kosen poses with (left to right) Sophie Yu, Kelly Garrett, Dr. Mary Lee Vance, and Dr. Jason Sheehan during a visit to the University of Virginia Medical Center.
Credit: UVA Health System

The world's tallest living man has stopped growing; treatment to reduce his growth hormone levels is showing signs of success, according to one of the doctors who treated him.

Sultan Kosen, the 8-foot 3-inch (2.5-meter) record holder has a noncancerous tumor on his pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain) causing it to release excessive growth hormone, which caused him to grow to such a size and also threatens his life.

In 2010, Kosen traveled from his native Turkey and was treated at the University of Virginia Medical Center.   

Kosen, 29, suffers from both giganticism and acromegaly, according to one of Kosen's doctors Mary Lee Vance, an endocrinologist who specializes in pituitary diseases at the University of Virginia Health System.

Giganticism occurs when too much growth hormone is released during childhood, causing a person like Kosen to become unusually tall.

The more common acromegaly occurs during adulthood, when the excessive growth hormone continues to stimulate tissue growth, but no longer causes a person to grow taller. People with acromegaly typically have prominent foreheads and lower jaws as well as immense hands and feet, according to Vance.   

Abnormally high levels of growth hormone are dangerous because they can cause heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure and may increase the risk of colon cancer. Kosen suffers from spinal deformities as a result, and must walk with crutches, according to Vance.  

In Turkey, Kosen had undergone operations to remove his tumor, but it could not be completely removed.

Vance altered his medications, and neurosurgeon Dr. Jason Sheehan performed a noninvasive procedure that delivered focused radiation to Kosen's tumor in August 2010.

A patient of Kosen's height required some special accommodations while at the hospital, according to Vance. During his overnight stay, the hospital staff had to put two beds together to accommodate him, she told LiveScience.

Vance said Kosen's endocrinologist in Turkey contacted her in recent months with good news: Kosen's hormone levels had improved significantly.

Guinness World Records, which lists Kosen as the largest living man, knows of only 10 confirmed or reliable cases of humans reaching more than 8 feet (2.4 meters).

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Wynne Parry on Twitter @Wynne_Parry. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.