Amount and intensity of leisure-time physical activity and lower cancer risk

Charles E. Matthews, Steven C. Moore, Hannah Arem, Michael B. Cook, Britton Trabert, Niclas Hakansson, Susanna C. Larsson, Alicja Wolk, Susan M. Gapstur, Brigid M. Lynch, Roger L. Milne, Neal D. Freedman, Wen Yi Huang, Amy Berrington De Gonzalez, Cari M. Kitahara, Martha S. Linet, Eric J. Shiroma, Sven Sandin, Alpa V. Patel, I. Min Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


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 doseresponse 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-698
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020


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