3 Percent of U.S. Cancer Cases Attributable to Physical Inactivity

The proportion of all incident cancer cases attributable to physical inactivity is 3.0 percent overall and varies between states from 2.3 to 3.7 percent, according to a study published online Oct. 4 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Adair K. Minihan, M.P.H., from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues calculated the proportion of incident cancer cases attributable to physical inactivity for adults aged 30 years or older in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2013 to 2016.

The researchers found that 3.0 percent of all incident cancer cases (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers) were attributable to physical inactivity, when optimal physical activity was defined as at least five hours/week of moderate-intensity activity, equivalent to ≥15 metabolic equivalent task-hours/week, accounting for an average of 46,356 attributable cases per year. The population-attributable fraction (PAF) varied from 2.3 to 3.7 percent in Utah and Kentucky, respectively. By cancer site, there was variation noted in the PAF from 3.9 to 16.9 percent for urinary bladder and stomach cancer, respectively.

“Our results indicate that promoting physical activity through broad implementation of known comprehensive interventions across states, including the development of appropriate infrastructure, could potentially prevent many cancer cases,” the authors write. “Future research is needed to identify effective programs for promoting physical activity that can be tailored to the needs of individuals and the community at large.”

One author owns Epidemiology Methods & Research LLC, which provides consulting services.

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