Leisure-time physical activity patterns and risk of colon cancer in women

Int J Cancer. 2007 Dec 15;121(12):2776-81. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23009.


Although physical activity has been consistently associated with lower risk of colon cancer, many details of the relationship remain unclear. We assessed the relation between physical activity and risk of colon cancer in 79,295 women aged 40-65 who were free of cancer, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease and who reported their leisure-time physical activity in 1986; 547 cases were identified through 2002. Women who expended more than 21.5 metabolic equivalent hr/week of physical activity had a relative risk (RR) of colon cancer of 0.77 (95% CI 0.58-1.01), compared to women who expended <2 metabolic equivalent hr/week. The association was stronger for distal than proximal tumors. Among women whose only reported activity was walking, there was a decreased risk of colon cancer in women walking 1-1.9 hr/week (RR = 0.69, 95% CI 0.47-1.03) compared to those who did not walk. Results were similar for increased amounts of walking, but there was no evidence of a dose response relation. Among women who participated in moderate or vigorous activity, increasing hours of activity were also associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer (p for trend = 0.01); women exercising >4 hr/week had a 40% lower risk of colon cancer than those exercising <1 hr/week (RR = 0.56, 95%CI 0.33-0.94). Long-term physical activity was not associated with risk of colon cancer, but the number of cases was small. A significant inverse association exists between physical activity, including that of moderate intensity, such as walking, and risk of colon cancer in women that is more pronounced for distal tumors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Nurses
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Walking