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Physical activity associated with lower risk for many cancers

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Higher levels of leisure-time physical activity were associated with lower risks for 13 types of cancers, according to a new study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine. Any decrease in cancer risk associated with physical activity could be relevant to public health and cancer prevention efforts.

Prof. Steven C. Moore of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., United States (U.S.) and coauthors pooled data from 12 U.S. and European cohorts (groups of study participants) with self-reported physical activity (1987-2004). They analyzed associations of physical activity with the incidence of 26 kinds of cancer.

The study included 1.4 million participants and 186,932 cancers were identified during a median of 11 years of follow-up.

The authors report that higher levels of physical activity compared to lower levels were associated with lower risks of 13 of 26 cancers: esophageal adenocarcinoma (42 percent lower risk); liver (27 percent lower risk); lung (26 percent lower risk); kidney (23 percent lower risk); gastric cardia (22 percent lower risk); endometrial (21 percent lower risk); myeloid leukemia (20 percent lower risk); myeloma (17 percent lower risk); colon (16 percent lower risk); head and neck (15 percent lower risk), rectal (13 percent lower risk); bladder (13 percent lower risk); and breast (10 percent lower risk). Most of the associations remained regardless of body size or smoking history, according to the article. Overall, a higher level of physical activity was associated with a seven percent lower risk of total cancer.

Physical activity was associated with a five percent higher risk of prostate cancer and a 27 percent higher risk of malignant melanoma, an association that was significant in regions of the U.S. with higher levels of solar Ultra Violet (U.V.) radiation but not in regions with lower levels, the results showed.

The authors note the main limitation of their study is that they cannot fully exclude the possibility that diet, smoking and other factors may affect the results. Also, the study used self-reported physical activity, which can mean errors in recall.

“These findings support promoting physical activity as a key component of population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts,” the authors conclude.



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