Women: Stand up for Cancer Prevention

three women standing

When it comes to sitting and cancer risk, women and men are not equal. Research from the American Cancer Society found that women who spend a lot of time sitting are more likely than sedentary men to develop cancer.

Details of the Study

The ACA’s Cancer Prevention Study-3 tracked 146,000 men and women who were cancer free in 1992 at the start of the 17-year study. During that time, 31,000 participants developed cancer.

After adjusting for factors like physical activity levels and weight, researchers discovered women who spent more time sitting had a 10% overall higher risk of cancer.

So, even if you’re active and physically fit, if you spend a lot of time sitting, you have an increased cancer risk according to the new study. No similar link was found in men.

Specifically, women who reported high levels of sitting (6 hours or more per day) had greater incidence of multiple myeloma, invasive breast cancer, and ovarian cancer than women who spent less than 3 hours of free time sitting.

Past research has shown that exercise and physical activity can reduce a person’s cancer risk, but this is one of the first studies that looked at the link between sitting time and cancer risk. This is significant, because it is estimated that Americans on average, sit more than 8-10 hours each day.

What Does it Mean?

While more research needs to be done to discover the reason behind the finding, it makes sense to take steps now to sit less and stand more. Not only can it help decrease your risk for cancer, but according to a 2011 study by the CDC, 100% of people who increased their non-sitting time by just one hour a day felt better; 2 out of 3 felt “much better.” In addition, you can burn approximately 30 more calories an hour simply by standing.

Easy ways to sit less and stand more

  • Walk & talk: When you’re talking on the phone, stand up. Better yet walk and talk.
  • Don’t email co-worker: Every once in a while, skip the email and walk to a colleague’s work area. And stand while you talk. Consider standing meetings.
  • Create an area to stand while you work: You don’t need a fancy standing desk. Even a box or crate to put on top of your desk to hold your computer, allows for some standing time.
  • Eat then walk: Don’t settle down front of the TV after dinner. See how much better you’ll feel after a quick walk.
  • Stand and watch: Try to stand occasionally when you’re watching TV.
  • Leave your chair at home: Next time you head to the park or a tailgate, leave your folding chair at home.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: You’ll be more inclined to stand and walk more if your feet feel good.

A Two-fold Approach

For the best health and cancer-fighting benefits, the American Cancer Society recommends adults limit time spent sitting, and get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity each week.

author name

Elizabeth C. Horenkamp, MD

Elizabeth C. Horenkamp, MD, is a physician with Lancaster General Health Physicians Hematology & Medical Oncology

Education: Medical School–University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Residency and Fellowship–Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center. 

Call: 717-544-9400

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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