It might sound like a tall tale, but according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology , your height may be a risk factor for early death — but only if you’re on dialysis and aren’t black.

After studying medical records of over one million patients who began dialysis from 1995 to 2008, and were subsequently followed until Dec. 31, 2010, study authors found an increased risk of mortality that increased with height among patients who identified as white, Asian, or American Indian/Alaskan native.

Those who measured in the top fifth percentile of height were the ones with the highest risk of early death, independent of comorbid conditions, disability, socioeconomic status, or body weight, among other factors. Breaking it down by sex, it was tall men who fared the worst, while blacks of either gender seemed to face no added risk regardless of how easily they could reach the top shelf of their food pantry. The risk also appeared higher for taller patients on shorter treatment times.

“These results indicate tallness is associated with higher mortality risks for adults starting dialysis, but this association did not extend to black patients,” they concluded.

Because patients who require dialysis already experience a large degree of lost kidney function, their survival rates are especially poor when compared to the general population. Yet, in virtually every other context — including lifespan and dating — it’s tall folks who have the upper hand, so to speak, which makes the study’s findings even more interesting. The findings may also better explain previously demonstrated risk factors for mortality among dialysis patients.

"Dialysis patients have extremely high premature death rates that are between 10- and 100-fold higher than in the general population, and height exerts an important quantifiable effect on dialysis patient survival. It is an easily measured physical trait and our study shows that it is an important prognostic marker for survival," study author Dr. Austin Stack said in a statement released by the journal. "As height is a component of body mass index, the relationship of body mass index with mortality in dialysis may be influenced by the prognostic contribution of height."

What Stack and his colleagues’ findings mean in the foreseeable future is more of a mystery. Dr. John Daugirdas, a nephrologist associated with the University of Illinois, explained in an accompanying editorial that “at this point, it is not at all clear what the physiology of increased mortality risk associated with taller stature might be, nor how this new knowledge might affect clinical practice."

Source: Elsayed M, Ferguson J, Stack A. Association of Height with Elevated Mortality Risk in ESRD: Variation by Race and Gender. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology . 2015.