The Horrifying Links Between Cancer and Excessive Sitting
Cancer is a terrible, relentless disease.
However, we can often times wrap our brains behind the cause. When someone we know gets diagnosed with lung cancer and they were a heavy smoker, for example, the cause of the cancer is clear.
Unfortunately, there are increasingly more cases of perfectly healthy people being diagnosed with some form of cancer. These diagnoses have baffled friends, family members and researchers alike.
Thankfully, researchers have made progress. Prolonged sitting, it seems, can greatly increase your risk of cancer.
Did you know that 86% of people are sitting almost all day, everyday?
Ergotron ran a study in 2013 and found that even after spending the majority of their day sitting at work, most people spend their leisure hours being sedentary. After sitting on their office chair the whole day at work, 46% of people spend up to 2 hours either watching TV or gaming, 29% spend 1-2 hours computers, and 25% spend up to 2 hours sitting for other activities like reading.
The average American therefore spends 13 of their waking hours sitting, while another 8 hours is spent sleeping, resulting in a lifestyle where 21 hours a day is sedentary.
The British Journal of Cancer published an article stating that both men and women who spend the majority of their time sitting have an increased risk of developing colon cancer,
Women are particularly vulnerable. There is a significant increase in the risk of cancer for women who spend 25% of their day sitting compared to those who spend less than 13% of their day sitting. Women who sit more have a much higher chance of developing ovarian, breast, multiple myeloma and endometrial cancers.
While women can be affected more by sitting, men aren’t in the clear. The British Journal of Cancer also suggested that men who chose not to sit for most of the time during work were able to reduce their chances of developing prostate cancer.
Exercise is not enough.
Now, here’s the scarier thing. Exercise alone does not negate the adverse impact of sitting.
While experts know that exercise strongly decreases numerous cancer risk, new research has determined that simply exercising isn’t enough – it needs to be combined with less time spent sitting.
Think of it as a two-pronged strategy: regular exercise plus avoiding extended periods of inactivity. “It seems highly likely that the longer you sit, the higher your risk,” says Neville Owen, PhD, of Australia’s Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.
Other doctors seem to agree that excessive sitting could act as an independent mortality factor. This means that you could be the healthiest person in the world (don’t smoke, not obese, regular exercise), but if you sit for extended periods, your cancer risks will still increase.
Dr. Christine Friedenreich, an epidemiologist in Alberta, Canada, estimates that more activity could have eliminated over 100,000 cases of breast and colon cancer in the United States annually.
Cancer expert Dr. Graham Colditz (of Washington University School of Medicine) states that while obesity is a leading cause of several cancers, there is also a strong relationship between obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. For example, if you sit after a meal, your blood sugar levels could rise, which in turn could lead to colon cancer. Sedentary behavior itself, it seems, is a driver of several types of cancer.
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute determined that sedentary behaviour is associated with a 21 to 32% higher risk of lung, endometrial and colon cancers. In fact, the sole activity of watching TV could increase your chance of endometrial cancer by 66% and colon cancer by 54%. Worst still, for every 2 hours spent sitting daily, the chance of endometrial cancer rises by 10% and colon cancer by 8%.
Despite all these warnings, it seems that sedentary lifestyles is becoming the norm. The British Journal of Sports Medicine deduced if you’re above 25 years old, you stand to lose 22 minutes of your life expectancy for every hour of TV watched.
Excessive sitting can cause early death
That’s not all.
In additional to the clear link between sitting and cancer, studies are also finding
a strong relationship between sitting and dying early. Strategic director at the American Cancer Society, Alpa Patel, claims that this link between prolonged sitting and early death can exist even in those who exercise regularly.
Woman who sits for more than just 6 hours a day can increase their early mortality rate by 37%. For men, sitting 6 hours a day increases their chances of early death by 17%. It is much bleaker for those who don’t exercise – their chance of early death shoots up by 48% for men and 94% for women.
An study conducted in 2012 found that if Americans spent 3 hours less per day sitting, the country’s average life expectancy would go up by 2 years. This sitting time includes any activities done while sitting, such as watching TV or working on the computer.
Alpa Patel reinforces the fact that sitting for too long every day could cause serious health risks, even to those who exercise regularly. Another researcher compares the belief that those who exercise could cancel out the risks caused by their time spent sitting with the belief that a heavy smoker could exercise at night and reverse the damage caused by his smoking. It just isn’t possible.
This is why the American Cancer Society encourages standing more and moving during the day. Even if you just stand up for 10-20mins every hour, it could make a huge difference to your health.