In the United States, 1.74 million individuals were diagnosed with cancer in 2018. This article presented the current evidence related to physical activity, sedentary behavior, cancer risk and survival. It is important to note that this research is still ongoing and often research is done on the most common forms of cancer. It is possible that these findings will also apply to other types of cancer, but the research has not yet been done.
The development of cancer is a complex process that involves normal cells transforming into precancerous lesions and then malignant tumors. Physical activity is thought to affect some of these cellular processes.
There is strong evidence that physical activity lowers seven types of cancer: colon, breast, kidney, endometrium, bladder, stomach and esophageal. There is moderate evidence that physical activity lowers the risk of lung cancer.
Time spent sitting has been studied separately and there is moderate evidence that more time spent sitting is associated with a higher risk of developing endometrial, colon and lung cancer.
After diagnosis of cancer, there is moderate evidence that increasing physical activity improves survival rates following breast, colon and prostate cancer diagnoses.
The bottom line – increased physical activity and reduced sitting has many health benefits that now also include reducing the risk of getting cancer and if diagnosed with cancer, improving the survival rate. Beginning a new exercise program should be done in consultation with your doctor and/or physical therapist. If you are a person that wants to know how to safely start exercise, a physical therapist can help you get started.