Sitting for long periods of time has been associated before with several health risks. Now, researchers have found that the activity (or rather, inactivity) can increase cancer risks in women.

In a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, researchers showed that spending more leisure time sitting increases overall cancer risks in women, most especially for ovarian and breast cancers and multiple myeloma, even after factoring in BMIs, physical activity levels and other factors.

Previous studies have shown the connection between physical activity and cancer prevention but few have explored the link sitting time has with risks for certain cancers. Sedentary lifestyles have always plagued people but more and more time has been spent sitting through the years because of lifestyle changes brought about by technological advancements.

Led by Alpa Patel, the researchers worked with data collected involving sitting time from over 146,000 men and women. All the subjects have not been diagnosed with cancer but are part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. From 1992 to 2009, 18,555 men as well as 12, 236 women were told they have cancer.

Comparing their data, the researchers saw that longer time spent sitting carried a 10-percent higher risk of developing cancer for women, a result not observed in men.

While the study found very clear associations between longer periods sitting down and risks of certain cancers, the researchers said that further studies are needed to better understand differences in associations affecting men and women.

Even before this study though, the American Cancer Society has released guidelines on physical activity recommending sitting time be reduced as much as possible. The researchers recognize that a lot of Americans spend their time sitting so even a slight association with cancer can have implications on public health.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in 2015, with over 580,000 succumbing to the disease in the United States. At least a third of all cancers can be avoided, with prevention offering the most cost-effective strategy for the long-term control of cancer.

Aside from engaging in regular physical activity and sticking to a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, alcohol, occupational carcinogens, pollution and radiation are listed as means of cancer prevention.

Photo: Kevin Ryder | Flickr

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