Couch Potatoes and Cancer Risk

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At the AICR Research Conference last week, there was a lot of talk on the evidence linking physical activity to improving the health of cancer survivors. For several cancers, including breast and colon, a growing number of studies suggest that physical activity can help reduce risk of recurrence and improve many aspects of survivor’s physiological and psychological health.

But if being physically active can decrease cancer risk, can sitting around a lot – a.k.a. sedentary behavior – increase risk? It’s quite possible, suggests a new review article. The article was published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, and you can read the abstract here.

Sedentary behavior research is an emerging field of study. In research, the term sedentary behavior refers to prolonged sitting or lying down, such as playing computer games or watching TV for hours at a time.  If a woman exercises vigorously for 60 minutes every day then watches TV all night every night, she is exhibiting sedentary behavior.

The review found that 10 of 18 studies linked increased sedentary behavior to cancer risk. Sedentary behavior was linked with increased colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer risk; cancer mortality in women; and weight gain in colorectal cancer survivors.

AICR’s expert report and its updates found that sedentary living increased the risk of excess body fat, which is one cause of seven types of cancer. Right now, more research is needed to understand the links and mechanisms of not moving and cancer risk, but one thing is known: moving more is a good thing. Physical activity helps prevent several cancers and a host of other poor health outcomes.

For tips on being active, look on adding activity to your day.

If you have a tip of your own, please share.

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Author: Mya Nelson

Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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