Lung, head and neck cancers risk linked to physical inactivity

Lung, head and neck cancers risk linked to physical inactivity
Physical inactivity has been linked to lung, head and neck cancers

New studies suggest that a lifestyle lacking in physical activity poses a greater risk of developing lung, head and neck cancers.

Two research teams led by Kirsten Moysich, PhD, professor of oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, New York, US, have found an association between physical inactivity and the development of lung, head and neck cancers.

Researchers used a large database of Roswell Park patients who had completed a questionnaire assessing their level of physical activity throughout adulthood.

They then compared those diagnosed with lung cancer or head/neck cancer with individuals who came to Roswell Park determined to be cancer free but had a suspicion of cancer.

Strong evidence of a higher risk of cancer

What both studies found was those who reported a history of no regular physical activity had a higher risk of cancer than those partaking in weekly physical exercise.

Assistant professor of oncology at Roswell Park and first author on both studies, Rikki Cannioto, PhD, said: “What is significant is that this increased risk was found even in people who had never smoked and were not overweight.

“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.”

In Europe, it is estimated that over one third of adults are not active enough in their daily lives. This is linked to society becoming more car-friendly and the growing geographical separation of living, shopping, working and leisure activities becoming more prominent.

Inactivity consistent in all groups

Moysich added: “The link between physical inactivity and cancer was consistently found in both men and women, normal-weight and overweight individuals, and among smokers and non-smokers.”

She said that these findings suggest that physical activity should be “encouraged as part of a multidisciplinary cancer care, survivorship and prevention programme”.

There was also a link found between depression and a shortened survival rate of people with head and neck cancer.


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