Long-term Sitting is Linked to Breast and Colon Cancers

According to recent estimates, 173,000 cancer cases are caused by sitting.

Christine Friedenreich (an epidemiologist from Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care in Canada) said that physical inactivity can be linked to up to 49,000 breast cancer cases and 43,000 colon cancer cases per year in the United States.

According to our research, breast and colon cancers are the most affected by exercise. Friedenreich presented her findings today at the American Institute for Cancer Research conference (Nov. 3).

However, her research also showed that an estimated 37.200 cases, 30600 cases, of prostate cancer, 12,000 cases, and 1800 cases, respectively, of ovarian cancer could all be avoided if more people exercise.

This research adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests prolonged sitting can have fatal consequences regardless of how active someone is during the day.

Neville Owen from Australia's Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, headed behavioral epidemiology, said that it seems likely that sitting longer increases your chance of developing cancer. He also presented his findings to the gathering. Owen's study showed that U.S. adults, on average, sit 15.5 hours a day.

Owen explained that standing up for long periods of time and moving around "makes up such an insignificant sliver" of someone's daily waking hours.

There is good news. The bad news is that prolonged, continuous sitting periods are the most harmful. This can be reduced by moving around and engaging in light exercise. Owen's study found that one- to two-minute breaks from sitting can reduce levels of molecules in the body that are linked with cancer risk.

Research shows that physical activity is not limited to running on a treadmill. Alice Bender (a spokesperson for AICR) stated that a person who exercises for only 30 minutes each day is actually active for just 3 percent of their day.

Bender explained that although regular exercise or going to the gym is important, this is only part of the story. She said that the AICR suggests taking small breaks during the day from sitting to allow for "infuse [our remaining] 97 percent of our day with brief periods of exercise that can protect against many types of cancers."

Exercise and Cancer

In Friedenreich's study, postmenopausal women who engaged in moderate to vigorous daily exercise had lower levels of C-reactive protein in their bodies after one year compared with women who did not engage in this level of activity. Studies have shown that low levels of C-reactive protein are associated with lower breast cancer risks.

The C-reactive Protein is an indicator of inflammation. It's an immune system response that helps the body fight infection. Inflammation levels that are too high can cause damage to cells and raise cancer risk.

Using data from her study and previous work on cancer indicators, Friedenreich estimated that daily exercise reduced the risk of breast and colon cancer by 25 to 30 percent.

Friedenreich stated that for many common cancers, a simple walk of 30 minutes per day could help lower cancer risk.

Owen's study suggested that even very brief exercise may reduce cancer risk. In the study, the one- to two-minute breaks were associated with smaller waists, less insulin resistance (an early sign of diabetes) and lower levels of inflammation- all risk factors for cancer.

Make a move!

These are some tips from the American Institute for Cancer Research to break up sitting.

It's okay to share: Research suggests that prolonged sitting may raise cancer risk.