Study: 3% of Cancers In the US Preventable Through Weekly Physical Activity

Study finds that 16.9% of stomach cancers, 11.9% of endometrial cancers, 11.0% of kidney cancers, 9.3% of colon cancers, 8.1% of esophageal cancers, 6.5% of female breast cancers, and 3.9% of urinary bladder cancers were associated with a low level of exercise.

More than 46,000 cancer cases in the United States could be prevented annually if patients met the recommended guidelines of 5 hours per week of moderate intensity physical activity, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. This accounts for 3% of all cancer cases in US adults 30 years of age and older between 2013 and 2016, with the proportion being higher in women.

According to the investigators, this is the first study to estimate the number of cancer cases attributable to physical inactivity based on cancer sites by state. States with the highest proportion of cancers attributable to physical inactivity included Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi. States with the lowest proportions included Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The data show that 16.9% of stomach cancers, 11.9% of endometrial cancers, 11.0% of kidney cancers, 9.3% of colon cancers, 8.1% of esophageal cancers, 6.5% of female breast cancers, and 3.9% of urinary bladder cancers were associated with a low level of exercise. The total proportion of cancer cases related to physical inactivity ranged by state, from 2.3% in Utah to 3.7% in Kentucky.

“These findings underscore the need to encourage physical activity as a means of cancer prevention and implement individual- and community-level interventions that address the various behavioral and socioeconomic barriers to recreational physical activity,” the study authors said in a prepared statement. “Understanding and reducing the behavioral and socioeconomic barriers to physical activity is essential for optimizing intervention strategies targeting at risk groups across the country.”

The investigators also acknowledge there are significant barriers to recreational physical activity, including time limitations due to working hours, the cost of personal equipment or gym memberships, environmental safety, and potential childcare costs. These barriers are more likely to affect historically marginalized populations, which they argue underscores the importance of enhancing health equity.

REFERENCE

Data continues to show that American’s need at least 5 hours per week of physical activity to prevent some cancers [news release]. EurekAlert; October 14, 2021. Accessed October 19, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/931538