A new study has found that one type of colorectal cancer is linked to a person’s weight and the amount they exercise. Colorectal cancer is the 4th most common cancer in America, with a 1 in 20 lifelong chance of developing the disease.  According to the American Cancer Society 102,480 cases of colon cancer and 40,340 of rectal cancer are estimated to be diagnosed in 2013. Over 50,000 Americans are estimated to die of the disease this year.

The study showed that, the more overweight a person is, and the less exercise they do, the more likely they are to develop the disease.

The Study

The research was conducted in Boston and analysed the weight and physical activity data as provided via questionnaires sent every 2 years to nearly 110,000 women and nearly 50,000 men as part of on-going studies into men’s and women’s health.   Data for the study was collected between 1976 and 2004.

Researchers were looking for a link between two types of colorectal cancer, known as CTNNB1 positive and CTNNB1 negative colorectal cancer.

The Results

At the end of data collection in 2004, 842 men and 1,421 women had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The researchers examined participants’ BMI to determine if there was a link between the CTNNB1 positive or negative cancers. They found that people with higher BMIs were more likely to develop CTNNB1 negative cancer.  They also discovered that people who exercised regularly were less likely to develop the disease.

The results showed that:

  • With every 5 kilos of extra weight, the risk of developing this type of cancer increased by 34%.
  • For every hour of high intensity cardiovascular exercise, risks of developing this cancer was reduced by 7%.
  • Those who exercised regularly (around 30 minutes for 5-6 days of the week) had a 30% reduction in cancer risk.
  • Neither weight nor physical exercise was linked to CTNNB1 positive cancer.

The reason for the link between BMI, exercise and CTNNB1 negative cancer is unclear but it is thought that increased insulin levels in people who are overweight or inactive could effectively feed cancer cells, promoting growth and preventing them from being destroyed naturally by the body’s immune system.

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