Sitting & Cancer Risk

Woman sitting at desk working

Can Too Much Sitting Increase My Cancer Risk?

The short answer is yes. Too much time sitting can increase your risk of developing cancer — and many other chronic and serious medical conditions.

It’s actually even more serious than that. When it comes to cancer, lots of time spent sitting can increase your risk of cancer. The good news is: While many of us live more sedentary lives these days, we can take steps to become more active on a daily basis, limiting our risk. Read on to learn more.

What’s the Connection Between Sitting and Cancer Risk?

While you’re sitting, you’re probably not moving much. That sedentary behavior is associated with a higher risk of being overweight or obese, having high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and many other risk factors for chronic disease.

There are two key studies recently that are related to sitting and cancer. The first, from the American Cancer Society, found a link between sitting and a higher risk of death from many of the most common causes of death, including cancer. This study found that sitting was associated with a higher risk of death from cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and many other chronic conditions.

The second study, published in 2020 in JAMA Oncology, found a clear association between inactivity and cancer deaths. Most notably, this study found that people who were the most sedentary were 80% more likely to die of cancer than those who sit the least often.

What does that mean for you? Well, it means that while sitting — and sedentary behavior in general — are tied to cancer risk, you can mitigate some of the risk by being active when you’re able. Limiting the amount of time you spend sitting or reclining is helpful.

How to Lower Your Cancer Risk
Most of us don’t have a lot of control over how we spent our weekdays. Many jobs in today’s world involve sitting for hours in front of a computer screen.

But even in that sedentary work world, you can still fit in movement. Small steps matter.

Set alarms on your phone with a reminder to stand up or walk around at different intervals throughout the day. Take the long way to the restroom, if you’re working in an office these days. Try to fit in a walk around the building (or around the house) during your lunch break. If you can, stand or walk during teleconferences and calls.

Outside of work, make exercising a priority. Schedule in your workouts like an appointment—and don’t cancel on yourself! Aim for a blend of cardio, balance exercises and strength-training exercises for optimal health.

Experts recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, or 75 minutes of strenuous activity. The more you get, the better off you are.

Has it been a while since you last had a checkup? An annual well-person checkup helps you understand your overall health needs. Find a provider here.

Read on Jagwire to find out more about news and stories happening at Augusta University and AU Health.

About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.