TUESDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- People diagnosed with
colorectal cancer who spend a lot of their leisure time sitting
have a higher risk of dying, according to researchers at the
American Cancer Society.
People who are physically active, however, have a better chance
of surviving than those who aren't, the researchers said.
"One factor might be that people who are physically active might be developing a less aggressive tumor," said lead researcher Peter Campbell, director of the society's Tumor Repository.
In addition, being physically fit may help people as they
undergo treatment, he said.
Exercise improves cardiovascular and muscle fitness, lowers
blood pressure and cholesterol, and improves blood sugar, Campbell
noted. "Some of these factors would lead quite clearly to better
tolerance for getting through surgery or other treatments," he
Campbell said the connection between sitting and dying isn't
"The sitting time is a little more speculative," Campbell said. "We do understand that sitting for long periods can lead to worse insulin and glucose profiles [measurements]. These worse insulin and glucose [measurements] can feed a tumor and increase risk of recurrence and death."
There is also evidence that long periods of sitting increases
"oxidative stress" on the body's cells and worsens hormone
balances, he added.
The new results need to be replicated before they can be
considered definitive, but they are consistent with what is seen in
non-cancer patients, Campbell said. Although the study suggests an
association between exercise and better outcomes, it did not prove
cause and effect. Many studies, however, have found this
association not only for cancer, but for heart disease and other
Moreover, the benefits of exercise in maintaining normal body
weight and improving strength and endurance are indisputable and
add to overall health, Campbell said.
The report was published Jan. 22 in the
Journal of Clinical Oncology.
For the study, Campbell's team collected data on nearly 2,300
people diagnosed with colorectal cancer that had not spread beyond
the colon. During 16 years of follow-up, more than 800 patients
died, nearly 400 of them from colorectal cancer and the rest from
After examining the data, Campbell's group found that people who
exercised the most -- such as walking 150 minutes a week -- had
about a 28 percent lower risk of dying compared to those who
Sitting six hours or more a day during leisure time was linked
to a 36 percent increased risk of dying compared to sitting less
than three hours a day, the study found.
"I think this applies to more than colon cancer, because what they are describing is all-cause mortality not just mortality from colon cancer," said Dr. David Bernstein, a gastroenterologist and chief of the division of hepatology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
"They are reinforcing that exercise and physical activity is associated with a lower risk of dying and it's better for you than just sitting there doing nothing," he said. "The body was meant to move around."
To learn more about colon cancer, visit the
American Cancer Society.
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