Background: Although there is convincing epidemiological evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer, it is unclear whether physical activity is differentially associated with the risks of proximal colon and distal colon cancers. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate this issue.
Methods: MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched for English-language cohort and case-control studies that examined associations between physical activity and the risks of proximal colon and distal colon cancers. A random-effects meta-analysis was conducted to estimate the summary relative risks (RRs) for the associations between physical activity and the risks of the two cancers. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results: A total of 21 studies met the inclusion criteria. The summary relative risk of the main results from these studies indicated that the risk of proximal colon cancer was 27% lower among the most physically active people compared with the least active people (RR = 0.73, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.66 to 0.81). An almost identical result was found for distal colon cancer (RR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.68 to 0.80).
Conclusion: The results of this systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of both proximal colon and distal colon cancers, and that the magnitude of the association does not differ by subsite. Given this finding, future research on physical activity and colon cancer should focus on other aspects of the association that remain unclear, such as whether sedentary behavior and nonaerobic physical activity are associated with the risk of colon cancer.