Purpose: To determine whether recommended amounts of leisure-time physical activity (ie, 7.5-15 metabolic equivalent task [MET] hours/week) are associated with lower cancer risk, describe the shape of the dose-response relationship, and explore associations with moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity.
Methods: Data from 9 prospective cohorts with self-reported leisure-time physical activity and follow-up for cancer incidence were pooled. Multivariable Cox regression was used to estimate adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs of the relationships between physical activity with incidence of 15 types of cancer. Dose-response relationships were modeled with restricted cubic spline functions that compared 7.5, 15.0, 22.5, and 30.0 MET hours/week to no leisure-time physical activity, and statistically significant associations were determined using tests for trend (P < .05) and 95% CIs (< 1.0).
Results: A total of 755,459 participants (median age, 62 years [range, 32-91 years]; 53% female) were followed for 10.1 years, and 50,620 incident cancers accrued. Engagement in recommended amounts of activity (7.5-15 MET hours/week) was associated with a statistically significant lower risk of 7 of the 15 cancer types studied, including colon (8%-14% lower risk in men), breast (6%-10% lower risk), endometrial (10%-18% lower risk), kidney (11%-17% lower risk), myeloma (14%-19% lower risk), liver (18%-27% lower risk), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (11%-18% lower risk in women). The dose response was linear in shape for half of the associations and nonlinear for the others. Results for moderate- and vigorous-intensity leisure-time physical activity were mixed. Adjustment for body mass index eliminated the association with endometrial cancer but had limited effect on other cancer types.
Conclusion: Health care providers, fitness professionals, and public health practitioners should encourage adults to adopt and maintain physical activity at recommended levels to lower risks of multiple cancers.