One Hour of TV a Day Equals Higher Colorectal Cancer Risk for Young Women

It would probably come as no surprise to you if someone said that sitting in front of the television for a few hours a day is bad for your health; or even just one hour a day. You would likely agree that the better thing to do—for your health—would be to get more fresh air and exercise.  Truly, the studies continue to show that the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of the average American has contributed to rising rates of lifestyle-based conditions like heart disease and obesity. 

But a new study warns that women—in particular—who sit in front of the television for at least two hours a day can also have an increased risk for bowel cancer.  And that risk can be elevated by as much as 70 percent. More importantly, this is the first time that sedentary behavior has ever been identified as a factor for bowel cancer, which might actually help to explain the dramatic increase of such cases in patients under the age of 50, in recent years. 

The study looked at nearly 90,000 nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 (at the beginning of the research) and tracked them from 1991 to 2013.  Over the course of the study, they found 118 cases of early-onset colorectal cancer; with rectal cancers more prevalent than colon cancer.

Early-onset colorectal cancer is a relatively new concept, as it is defined as a form of cancer that occurs under the age of 50. It is growing quickly in the US, despite the steady decline of the disease in older patients. However, the decline among older patients appears to be the result of higher cancer screening rates; thus the belief is that similar screenings among older patients may help reduce incidence in a similar way among younger patients. 

Washington University School of Medicine cancer epidemiologist Yin Cao explains, “Sedentary lifestyle is one of the risk factors that is often overlooked.  This study may help identify those at high risk and who might benefit more from early screening.”

The lead study author goes on to say that the study suggests that women who watch more than one hour a day of TV viewing—consistently—are at a 12 percent increase risk for colorectal cancer.

The study has been published in JNCI Cancer Spectrum. 

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