Dec 14, 2009

The Tallest Living Woman

Yao Defen (Chinese: 姚德芬; pinyin: Yáo Défēn) of China, (born 15 July 1972) is claimed to be the tallest woman in the world (2.33 m; 7 ft 8 in). The Guinness Book of World Records said American Sandy Allen was the world's tallest woman until Allen's death on August 13, 2008, but dispute Defen's claim. She weighs 200 kg (440 lbs) and has size 26 (UK) / 78 (EU) feet. Her gigantism is due to a tumor in her pituitary gland.

Early life

Yao Defen was born to poor farmers in the town of Liuan in the Anhui province of Shucheng County. At birth she weighed 6.16 pounds. At age 3 she was eating more than three times the amount of food that other three-year-olds were eating. When she was 11 years old she was about 6 foot 2 inches tall. She was 6 foot 8 inches tall by the age of 15.

The story of this "woman giant" began to spread rapidly after she went to see a doctor at age 15 for an illness. After that, many companies attempted to train her to be a sports star. The plans were abandoned, however, because Defen was too weak. Because she is illiterate, since 1992 Yao Defen has been forced to earn a living by traveling with her father and performing.

Yao Defen's giant stature was caused by a large tumor in the pituitary gland of her brain, which was releasing too much growth hormone and caused excessive growth in her bones. Six years ago, a hospital in Guangzhou Province removed the tumor, and she stopped growing.

The tumor returned and she was treated in Shanghai in 2007, but was sent home for 6 months with the hope that medication would reduce her tumor enough to allow surgery. The second surgery was never performed due to lack of funds.

In 2009 TLC devoted a whole night show to her. She suffered from a fall in her home and had internal bleeding of the brain. She recovered and felt some happiness after a visit from the world's tallest man, also living in China.

Medical help

A British television programme filmed a documentary on her and helped raise money so she could get proper medical care. They did measure her and according to the documentary she's 7ft 8in tall. Two leading doctors in acromegaly agreed to help Yao. She was taken to a nearby city hospital, where imaging procedures revealed that a small portion of her tumor, removed many years before, still remained, causing continuing problems, including weakening vision as it pressed against her optic nerve. She returned home, then was admitted for a month under observation in the larger Shanghai Ruijin Hospital, and given dietary supplements. In that hospital, her growth hormone was greatly slowed down, although it is still a problem. Upon her return home to her mother and brother, she was able to walk with crutches, unassisted by others, and was given a six-month supply of medicines and supplements in hopes of improving her condition enough to undergo surgery.


Yao currently suffers from hypertension, heart disease, poor nutrition, and osteoporosis. Acromegaly often results from a tumor within the pituitary gland that causes excess growth hormone secretion. As a result, the body's features become enlarged. It can also delay the onset of puberty as is the case with Yao. She has no secondary sex characteristics. Potential complications without necessary surgery include blindness and eventually premature death.

She lives near her mother (who is only 4 ft 8 inches tall) in a small village in rural China.



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