Long periods of sitting associated with elevated cancer risk

Woman sitting

Spend most of your day sitting? If you’re a woman, it may put you at higher risk for a variety of cancers.

According to a new study from the American Cancer Society, women who spend more leisure time sitting are at an increased risk for developing multiple myeloma, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

“The more you sit, the higher the risk of dying prematurely,” says lead investigator Alpa Patel, Ph.D. “It’s associated with cardiovascular disease, the development of obesity, diabetes, and a variety of other conditions.”

The study focused on over 69,000 men and nearly 78,000 women. What they found was that longer leisure time spent lounging around was associated with a 10 percent higher risk of cancer in women—even after adjusting for factors like physical activity and body mass index.

Patel says that current guidelines recommend adults get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week; something many Americans fail to do. On top of that, advancements in technology and transportation only encourage more time spent sitting.

Even if you are getting the recommended amount of physical activity, are those benefits negated if you’re spending the rest of your day sitting?

“I will always say that if you’re only going to do one of the two—either watching your sitting time or being physically active—the documented benefits of being physically active are tremendous,” says Patel. “This area of research for sitting time is newer, and we’re still trying to figure out what some of it means.”

Either way, she recommends limiting your time spent sitting whenever possible.

“Getting up and moving in any capacity is good for you,” Patel adds. “Even if you are going to the gym regularly, there’s added value to your overall health and cancer risk by sitting less.”

Prior research has also found that walking for just two minutes every hour may significantly offset these health hazards.

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