World's tallest woman dies in China

The world's tallest woman has died in eastern China at age 39.

39-year-old Yao Defen was 7 feet 7 inches

Yao Defen, pictured in 2006, held the world record for being the tallest living woman. She died at age 39 in November. (Nir Elias/Reuters)

The world's tallest woman has died in eastern China at age 39.

Chinese state media say Yao Defen died on Nov. 13 at her home in the province of Anhui.

Guinness World Records in January 2010 had certified her as the world's tallest living woman, at seven-foot-seven. According to its website, Yao may still have been growing due to a portion of a tumour remaining on her pituitary gland. The website states she was too ill to be measured again.

The local Xin'an Evening News did not give the cause of death, but said in a report that Yao suffered from gigantism, with a tumour on her pituitary gland disrupting her levels of growth hormone. A government official in her county who gave only his surname, Liu, confirmed Yao's death on Wednesday.

Xin'an said Yao learned to play basketball when young, and that she was six-foot-seven by age 15.

In a Chinese-language video from three years ago, Yao expressed anguish at her unusual height.

"I am very unhappy. Why am I this tall?" she said from her bed. "If I were not this tall, others would not look at me like this."

Tumour afflicted other record-holder

In 2008, Sandy Allen — who back then held the record for being the world's tallest woman at seven-foot-seven — died. She was 53 years old.

Allen also suffered from a tumour. She said it caused her pituitary gland to produce too much growth hormone. Prior to her death, Allen had been hospitalized with a recurring blood infection, diabetes, breathing troubles and kidney failure, according to a family friend, Rita Rose.

While Yao held the Guinness World Record for the world's tallest living woman, the woman hailed at the tallest woman ever by Guinness is Zeng Jinlian of China. In 1982, she died age 17, measuring eight feet 1.75 inches.

The world's tallest living man is Turkey's Sultan Kösen, at eight-foot-three. He was last measured in 2011.

With files from CBC News