Can physical activity modulate pancreatic cancer risk? a systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Cancer. 2010 Jun 15;126(12):2957-68. doi: 10.1002/ijc.24997.


Numerous epidemiological studies have examined the association between physical activity and pancreatic cancer; however, findings from individual cohorts have largely not corroborated a protective effect. Among other plausible mechanisms, physical activity may reduce abdominal fat depots inducing metabolic improvements in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, thereby potentially attenuating pancreatic cancer risk. We performed a systematic review to examine associations between physical activity and pancreatic cancer. Six electronic databases were searched from their inception through July 2009, including MEDLINE and EMBASE, seeking observational studies examining any physical activity measure with pancreatic cancer incidence/mortality as an outcome. A random effects model was used to pool individual effect estimates evaluating highest vs. lowest categories of activity. Twenty-eight studies were included. Pooled estimates indicated a reduction in pancreatic cancer risk with higher levels of total (five prospective studies, RR: 0.72, 95% CI: 0.52-0.99) and occupational activity (four prospective studies, RR: 0.75, 95% CI: 0.59-0.96). Nonsignificant inverse associations were seen between risks and recreational and transport physical activity. When examining exercise intensity, moderate activity appeared more protective (RR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.52-1.20) than vigorous activity (RR: 0.97, 95% CI: 0.85-1.11), but results were not statistically significant and the former activity variable incorporated marked heterogeneity. Despite indications of an inverse relationship with higher levels of work and total activity, there was little evidence of such associations with recreational and other activity exposures.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment