Prolonged Sitting May Increase Breast Cancer and Colon Cancer Risk

Prolonged sitting has long been known to be associated with many health problems. A new study found that prolonged sitting may also increase the risk of certain cancers like breast cancer and colon cancer.

A major study, presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research annual conference, has revealed a strong connection between physical inactivity and cancers risk.

Lead researcher Christine Friedenreich, of Alberta Health Services Cancer Care in Canada, said that as many as 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer occurring in the US every year are linked to a lack of physical activity. Specifically, the researchers honed in on prolonged sitting, finding that sitting for long periods of time can increase some of those same indicators of cancer risk, even on people who exercise daily.

Her study also suggested that an estimated 37,200 cases of lung cancer, 30,600 cases of prostate cancer, 12,000 cases of endometrial cancer and 1,800 cases of ovarian cancer could be prevented if people were more physically active.

“This is a conservative estimate. The more physical activity you do, the lower your risk of getting these cancers,” said epidemiologist Christine Friedenreich of Alberta Health Services in Calgary.

In Friedenreich’s research, postmenopausal women who engaged in moderate to vigorous daily exercise had lower levels of C-reactive protein in their bodies after a year compared with women who did not engage in this level of physical activity. C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation, which is found in the blood. Low levels of this protein have been linked to lowered breast cancer risk.

His research results show regular physical activity cuts a person’s risk of breast cancer and colon cancer by 25 to 30 percent.

“Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right. It seems highly likely that the longer you sit, the higher your risk of having cancer,” said Dr. Neville Owen, head of Behavioral Epidemiology at Australia’s Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.

His study revealed that the majority of adults’ days are spent sedentary. One accelerometer study found that 9.3 hours of one’s waking day was spent sedentary, including meals, computer/ television time, while another 6.5 hours was spent engaged in light activity such as walking to a meeting. Office workers can spend over 75 percent of their working hours sitting, with bouts of 30 minutes or more of activity.

Keys Recommendation to Reduce Cancers Risk

Break every hour of sitting with 1 to 2 minutes of activity. These breaks can be as simple as walking to a colleague’s office instead of sending an email or going to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

Dr. Owen’s research found that 1 to 2 minutes breaks from sitting were associated with smaller waists, less insulin resistance (a sign of type 2 diabetes) and lower levels of inflammation – all risk factors for cancer. Set a timer on your computer to remind you every hour that it’s time to step away from your desk, and take a short walk down the hall. Instead of emailing a co-worker, chat with him or her over a walk.

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