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Study reveals workplace sitting increases bowel cancer risk by 44%

Monday 4 September, 2017

Prolonged sitting at work increases one's risk of bowel cancer by 44%, a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology has revealed.

The research highlights growing concerns about how long people spend sitting each day and the impact on their health.

The study found that physical activity performed in the workplace, for recreation or transport decreases risk of colon cancer; and that physical activity performed at work decreases the risk of rectal cancer. 

Brigid Lynch, Senior Research Fellow at Cancer Council Victoria, said the study demonstrates the benefits of incorporating physical activity across the day, and not just in leisure time.

"Our take home message is that there are lots of ways to get incidental physical activity in your day, and it can make a difference to your cancer risk, and overall health.

"Active transport, like walking or cycling to work, is a great way to get active and reduce your bowel cancer risk.  Sitting at work is a risk factor we haven't really focussed on before; reducing occupational sitting is a cancer control strategy that both individuals and workplaces should think about adopting.  We know that there are health benefits to breaking up prolonged periods of sitting, so encouraging staff to take regular standing breaks is a great start to helping improve their health.  Providing facilities that encourage active transport, such as bicycle storage and showers, is fantastic too."

Dr Lynch said a third of cancers can be prevented by making healthy and simple lifestyle choices.

"We already know that many cancer can be prevented through lifestyle changes such as being physically active, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake and being SunSmart. This research further builds our knowledge about how to decrease cancer risk, and ultimately, prevent cancer cases in the community."

This year another 31,600 Victorians will be diagnosed with cancer, including 3,800 with bowel cancer. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in Victoria, accounting for 13% of cancer deaths.  

For more information on bowel cancer visit