Long periods of sitting puts men at higher risk of bowel cancer, study says

It's estimated 14,900 men were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2017, the Canadian Cancer Society reports,. Tetra Images/Getty Images

Sitting for four or more hours could put men at a higher risk of developing bowel cancer, a new study says.

In fact, according to researchers at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), men who watch TV for those long periods of time, for example, have a 35 per cent higher risk of getting the cancer than those who sit for less than an hour.

READ MORE: New Canadian research aims for tailored treatment of pancreatic cancer

“Previous research suggests that watching TV may be associated with other behaviours, such as smoking, drinking and snacking more, and we know that these things can increase the risk of bowel cancer,” lead researcher Dr. Neil Murphy said in a press release. “Being sedentary is also associated with weight gain and greater body fat. Excess body fat may influence the blood levels of hormones and other chemicals which affect the way our cells grow, and can increase bowel cancer risk.”

Story continues below advertisement

The study looked at over 430,000 men and women, making it one of the largest studies on the subject, researchers say. After six years, researchers followed up with 2,391 people from the UK Biobank study who developed bowel cancer.

After analyzing the data, the team also found that the link between sedentary behaviour (like watching TV) and women was not seen.

“It’s interesting that only men who watched a lot of TV had an increased risk of bowel cancer, but not women,” Murphy said. “The study didn’t look at this directly, but it could be because men might smoke, drink and eat more unhealthily than women while watching TV.”

The team says they’ll need further research to answer the questions the study raises.

“What we do know is that keeping a healthy weight, cutting back on alcohol, being physically active and eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables are known to cut your risk of bowel cancer,” Murphy adds.

Story continues below advertisement

Another study by the American Cancer Society last year, however, found that while colon and rectal cancer rates were on the decline in older people, millennials and Gen-Xers were experiencing a rise.

Researchers of that study found that three in 10 rectal cancer diagnoses are in patients younger than the age of 55.

And similar patterns have been observed in Canada as well, Dr. Leah Smith told Global News last year.

READ MORE: Study finds Western diet increases risk of cancer, especially in women

“We’ve seen very similar trends to what’s been reported in the U.S.,” she said. “We are seeing a general decline in incidence rates but that decline is restricted to age groups over 50, but colorectal cancer is going up in people under 50.”

It’s also reported that seven per cent of all colorectal cancers in Canada are tied to people under 50.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada. It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men, and third for women.

In 2017, it’s estimated that 26,800 Canadians were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 9,400 died from the disease. That’s an average of 73 Canadians being diagnosed every day, and 26 deaths due to the cancer.

Story continues below advertisement

In men specifically, about 14,900 were estimated to be diagnosed, and 5,100 had died from colorectal cancer.

Common risk factors for colorectal cancer include being obese or overweight, physical inactivity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, your age, family history of colorectal cancer and your diet, the American Cancer Society states.

When it comes to diet, in particular, a study last year by the American Institute for Cancer Research found that eating whole grains reduces one’s risk of developing bowel cancer while high amounts of red meat increase one’s chances.

– With files from Carmen Chai

Sponsored content