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Exercise may reduce the risk of cervical cancer

Even 30 minutes of exercise per week has the potential to significantly reduce a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer, according to a study from scientists at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI). The case-control study was recently published in the Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease.

“To our knowledge, this is the first U.S.-based study looking at the associations between physical inactivity and cervical cancer. Our findings suggest that abstinence from regular physical activity is associated with increased odds of cervical cancer,” says J. Brian Szender, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and a fellow in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at Roswell Park.

The study included 128 patients diagnosed with cervical cancer and 512 women suspected of having cancer but ultimately not diagnosed with the disease. Physical inactivity was defined as having engaged in fewer than four sessions of physical activity per month. The reported rates of physical inactivity were 31.1% for women diagnosed with cervical cancer and 26.1% among the control group. The difference in risk remained present even after accounting for potential differences in smoking, alcohol intake, family history of cervical cancer and body mass index.

The findings show that women who reported that they did not engage in any physical activity were two-and-a-half times more likely to develop cervical cancer when compared to women who reported that they exercise.

“We think that this study sends a powerful public health message: that a complete lack of exercise is associated with the greater likelihood of developing a serious disease. Our findings show that any amount of exercise can reduce cervical cancer risk,” says Kirsten Moysich, PhD, MS, senior author of the study and Distinguished Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at RPCI. “In addition to smoking cessation and undergoing regular screening, we have identified another important modifiable risk factor for this disease.”

This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute, or NCI (project nos. T32CA108456 and P30CA016056).

Article: Impact of Physical Inactivity on Risk of Developing Cancer of the Uterine Cervix: A Case-Control Study, Szender, James Brian MD; Cannioto, Rikki PhD, EdD; Gulati, Nicolas R.; Schmitt, Kristina L. BS; Friel, Grace MA; Minlikeeva, Albina MS; Platek, Alexis BS; Gower, Emily H. MS; Nagy, Ryan BS; Khachatryan, Edgar BS; Mayor, Paul C. MD; Kasza, Karin A. MA; Lele, Shashikant B. MD; Odunsi, Kunle MD, PhD; Moysich, Kirsten B. PhD, Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease, doi: 10.1097/LGT.0000000000000210, published April 2016.