Sedentary Lifestyle Causes Risk of Lung, Head and Neck Cancers to Skyrocket
Increasing exercise levels may reduce the risk of several cancers.
Countless studies have illustrated the benefits of exercise both for patients with or without chronic diseases. Despite an increasing body of evidence suggesting a lack of physical activity can increase the risk of certain diseases, it is not widely recognized as a risk factor for cancer.
Two new studies published by Cancer Treatment Research Communications and European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology have directly linked physical activity with the development of lung cancer and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
These findings add 2 more diseases to a growing list of cancers that result from sedentary behaviors.
In the studies, the authors analyzed questionnaires that assessed physical activity level throughout adulthood for patients diagnosed with lung cancer or HNSCC and those suspected of having cancer but who were later found to be disease-free.
Patients who reported no history of regular, weekly, or recreational exercise had a greater risk of developing cancer compared with those who engaged in at least 1 weekly session of exercise, according to the study.
These results remained true after accounting for potentially confounding factors such as weight or smoking status.
"What is significant is that this increased risk was found even in people who had never smoked and were not overweight,” said first author of both studies Rikki Cannioto, PhD, EdD, MS. “This adds to the growing body of evidence that, much like smoking or obesity, physical inactivity is an independent but modifiable risk factor for cancer.”
Prior research suggests an association between a lack of exercise and cancer, but the current studies are the first to examine lifetime physical inactivity as an independent factor, according to the authors.
“This different approach allowed us to identify the most sedentary segment of the population that is most at risk,” said co-author of the HNSCC study Iris Danziger, MD.
The CDC recommends that adults should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. The agency also advises that muscle-strengthening exercises can provide additional health benefits.
Because a majority of Americans are falling well below current exercise guidelines, these findings may have significant implications, according to the study.
These results bolster the argument that Americans should increase their participation in physical activity for disease prevention, including lung cancer and HNSCC.
“The link between physical inactivity and cancer was consistently found in both men and women, normal-weight and overweight individuals, and among both smokers and nonsmokers,” Dr Moysich said. “Our findings strongly suggest that physical activity should be actively encouraged as part of a multidisciplinary cancer care, survivorship and prevention program.”