Could sitting give you cancer?

Sedentary lifestyles could increase risk of some cancers by 66%

People who spend the majority of their day sitting can be up to 66% more likely to develop certain types of cancer than those who do not, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

'Sitting disease' can boost your heart failure risk

For the study, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine reviewed 43 studies in which participants were asked about their daily activities and their cancer incidence.

They found that individuals who spent more time sitting had an increased risk of developing certain—but not all—types of cancer, even if they regularly exercised.

Compared to the study participants who spent the least amount of time sitting each day, participants who spent the most time sitting were found to have a:

  • 32% greater risk of developing endometrial cancer;
  • 24% greater risk of developing colon cancer; and
  • 21% greater risk of developing lung cancer.

Researchers took a closer look at the types of sedentary behaviors that affected participants' cancer rates the most and found that those who watched the most TV were 54% more likely to develop colon cancer and 66% more likely to develop endometrial cancer. The study's authors note that people who watch a lot of TV tend to eat less healthfully, processed snack foods, and drink more sugary sodas which can contribute to obesity and include potential food-based cancer-causing agents, according to TIME.

Infographic: What's the most common cancer in your state?

The researchers also found that for every additional two hours that participants spent sitting during the day, their chance of developing colon cancer increased by 8% and their risk of developing endometrial cancer rose by 10%.

However, there were no observed links between sitting and other types of cancer, including breast and uterine cancer, prostate cancers, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

In an accompanying editorial, researcher Graham Colditz says it is important to understand the difference between leading a physically active lifestyle and spending less sedentary time, because sitting too much can cause harm regardless of exercise levels (Park, TIME, 6/16; Walton, Forbes, 6/17; Goodman, CBS News, 6/17).


Next in the Daily Briefing

The latest industry transitions

Read now