Sitting for Long Periods of Time May Increase Cancer Risk

chair and activity

Researchers from Australia recently presented evidence from a study* that suggests sitting for long periods of time is associated with health risks – even for people who are regularly physically active.

Neville Owen, PhD, head of behavioral epidemiology at Australia's Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, says: "Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right. It seems highly likely that the longer you sit, the higher your risk. This phenomenon isn't dependent on body weight or how much exercise people do.”

In the study, Dr. Owen measured waist circumference, insulin resistance and inflammation, which are indicators of cancer risk common to many physical activity-cancer studies.

His team found that when prolonged sitting is broken up with breaks as short as one minute, these biomarkers can be lowered.

“Sedentary time is also likely an important factor for cancer survivors,” said Dr. Owen. For survivors, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are particular concerns and overweight and obesity increase the risk for both conditions. "Television viewing time, a sign of sedentary behavior, appears to increase subsequent risk of weight gain in cancer survivors."

What do you think? Based on this study’s findings, will you take more breaks away from your desk?

The Penn Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer seeks to understand more about exercise, weight loss and quality of life of cancer patients through research. Some projects at the center include studies on exercise and weight loss as they relate to cancer recurrence, and how exercise can help manage effects of cancer treatment.

Penn's Abramson Cancer Center is a national cancer center in Philadelphia providing comprehensive cancer treatment, clinical trials for cancer and is a cancer research center. The National Cancer Institute has designated the Abramson Cancer Center a Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 40 such cancer centers in the United States.

*Dr. Owen’s study called “Adults’ Sedentary Behavior: Determinants and Interventions” appeared in the August 2011 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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