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Is there a couch potato-cancer link?

The hours Americans spend sitting may be increasing their risk for cancer, just as the time they spend exercising can reduce the risk, new research says.

"For colon and breast cancer we can now say there is convincing evidence that being physically active reduces your risk of developing [them]," said Christine Friedenreich, a senior research epidemiologist at the Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care in Calgary, Alberta.

"It's not enough to just meet the physical activity guidelines like doing 150 minutes a week of exercise," she added. "If you are spending the rest of your time sitting, like in front of a computer, that may be a problem."

For colon cancer, regular exercise can reduce the risk up to 35 percent, she said. "There's a dose response -- that means more physical activity lowers the risk more." The same is true for breast cancer, the risk for which can be reduced up to 25 percent through exercise.

Dr. Freya Schnabel, director of breast surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, said "there is beginning to be evidence that the way obesity increases the risk of cancer is through an increase in inflammation in the body, and by doing exercise you can lower the makers of inflammation, which might lower the risk of cancer." But she stressed that more research is needed to clarify these links.

Friedenreich agreed. Although the connection between lack of exercise and the increased risk for heart disease is well-established, the association between a "couch potato" lifestyle and cancer risk is a relatively new finding and one that needs further investigation, she said. -- HealthDay

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