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Prolonged sitting at work increases bowel cancer risk, research finds

Published on 04 September 2017 back to previous

The Cancer Council Victoria finding adds further weight to the growing evidence linking our sedentary lives to poorer health outcomes.

Bowel cancer is the second most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia with more than 14,000 cases annually.

Lead author Dr Brigid Lynch said they found workers who spent long periods sitting had a higher risk of developing bowel cancer.

“We don’t want to scare people and say that if you sit at work you will definitely get bowel cancer; this is just another piece to the puzzle that shows the lifestyle factors that make a small but meaningful contribution to the risk of developing cancer.”

O​ne​​-third of cancers can be prevented by lifestyle changes such as exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, limiting alcohol and reducing sun exposure.

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, was a meta-analysis of peer-reviewed studies, incorporating 38 papers and 3.5 million participants.

Dr Lynch said they compared the risk of those people who did not sit at work to those who had the most sedentary jobs.

“If everything else is equal, such as​ body mass index, smoking status, alcohol intake, ​ and this is the one factor that we change, we found people who sit all day had a 44 per cent higher risk of developing bowel cancer.”

In Australia the risk of a person being diagnosed by their 85th birthday is one in 13.

“In terms of the size of the risk, it’s definitely not the biggest one, we know that smoking is a huge risk factor and this is not on the same scale as that,” Dr Lynch said.

“But it is there, and it is real, and workplaces need to be aware of it so they can make​ small changes to help people not spend so long desk-bound.”​

They also found people who did recreational physical activity, such as going to the gym or running, had a 20 per cent reduced risk of developing colon cancer.

A small number of studies also highlighted that people who walked or​ ​​cycled​ to work had a 33 per cent reduced risk, which suggests active transport was beneficial as it was likely to be more regular and consistent than recreational exercise.

The biggest bowel cancer risks are being aged over 50, a family history of the disease and a personal history of several other cancers, polyps, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

Click here to read the full article from The Herald Sun.

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