World’s tallest man finally stops growing at 8 feet 3 inches

Sultan Kosen, the world’s tallest man according to the Guiness book of records, received treatment at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Dr. Jason Sheehan (far right) performed radiosurgery to a tumor in Kosen’s pituitary gland to stop his excess production of growth hormone. His endocrinologist, Mary Lee Vance, on Kosen’s right, placed him on a new medication to help stop his growth. Here’s the photo. Caption info is below: (Left to right) – Sophie Yu, Kelly Garrett, Mary Lee Vance, MD, Sultan Kosen and Jason Sheehan, MD

For three years in a row, Sultan Kosen has been named the world’s tallest living man by Guinness World Records. Interestingly, he’s earned this lofty distinction at three different heights. Even more fascinating, in the last three months, the 29-year-old Turkish man has only recently stopped growing thanks to receiving state-of-the-art treatment in the U.S.

Kosen first 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. He developed a pituitary tumor as a child, which caused his pituitary gland to produce an excessive amount of growth hormone.

“That tumor is not cancerous and it is not a brain tumor,” says Dr. Mary Lee Vance, an endocrinologist at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, Va. “A spontaneous mutation causes the tumor, and it’s not hereditary,” she explains. 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. The Discovery Channel was doing a show on Kosen as the “World’s Tallest Man,” and Vance, as an expert in pituitary tumors, was asked to appear on it.

She put Kosen on a new medication (he was already taking two others) to try to bring down his growth hormone levels to a normal range. But medication alone would not be enough, so Vance consulted with a neurosurgeon to explore other options.

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.

It seems being this tall comes at a steep price. “The human body and heart is not well designed for a person who is 8 (feet) tall,” points out Sheehan.