Exercise May Reduce the Risk of Cervical Cancer

Roswell Park study strongly supports benefits of exercise
Tuesday, May 10, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 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.”

The study, “Impact of Physical Inactivity on Risk of Developing Cancer of the Uterine Cervix: A Case-Control Study,” is available at journals.lww.com/jlgtd.

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

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The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org. Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: 

Deborah Pettibone, Public Information Specialist
716-845-4919; deborah.pettibone@roswellpark.org