Exercise reduces colon cancer risk by a fifth

An active lifestyle could help to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer by over a fifth, according to new research.

Scientists at the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (Epic) organisation analysed data from 413,000 Europeans and found that the risk of colon cancer fell by 22 per cent among those who exercised either vigorously for one hour or moderately for two hours every day.

However, the research revealed that exercise only helps to reduce the risk of developing right-sided colon cancer, as the incidence of rectal cancer remained the same.

Epic coordinator Professor Elio Riboli said that the research team were particularly interested in the results for different parts of the colon and rectum, as this kind of detail had not been possible in previous studies because of limitations on sample size and data.

"The protective effect of physical activity on colon but not on rectal cancer is in agreement with our previous results on colorectal cancer risk in relation to obesity and insuline resistance that also showed specific association with colon cancer risk," the professor said.

Around 21,500 cases of colon cancer, the most common type of cancer in men, are reported every year in Britain.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said that the study was large enough to remove any doubt about the benefits of exercise in relation to bowel cancer risk.

"It is important for people to understand that they can take steps in their daily routine to reduce cancer risk," he said.


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