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Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Mar 15;177(6):514-30. doi: 10.1093/aje/kws280. Epub 2013 Feb 17.

Physical activity, occupational sitting time, and colorectal cancer risk in the Netherlands cohort study.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands. colinda.simons@maastrichtuniversity.nl


We investigated occupational energy expenditure and sitting time in the longest held job (in men only), nonoccupational physical activity, and former sports participation in relation to colorectal cancer endpoints. The Netherlands Cohort Study includes 120,852 participants who completed a self-administered questionnaire in 1986 when they were aged 55-69 years. By 2002, 1,819 male and 1,366 female colorectal cancer cases were available for case-cohort analyses. In men, higher occupational energy expenditure levels and fewer occupational sitting hours were associated with decreased hazard ratios for colon cancer, particularly distal colon cancer (occupational energy expenditure of ≥12 vs. <8 kJ/minute, hazard ratio (HR) = 0.71, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.52, 0.97; P for trend = 0.01; occupational sitting hours of <2 vs. 6-8 hours/day, HR = 0.63, 95% CI: 0.48, 0.83; P for trend = 0.001). The median duration of the longest held job for male subcohort members was 29 years. Nonoccupational physical activity was inconsistently associated with colorectal cancer endpoints in men, and it was inversely associated with colon cancer in women, particularly distal colon cancer (>90 vs. ≤30 minutes/day, HR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.50, 0.96; P for trend = 0.06), and rectal cancer (>90 vs. ≤30 minutes/day, HR = 0.59, 95% CI: 0.39, 0.90; P for trend = 0.02). In conclusion, regular long-term physical activity and fewer sitting hours may protect against colon cancer, particularly distal colon cancer; results for rectal cancer were mixed.

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