Exercise Could Lower Cervical Cancer Risk

May 23, 2016

Women who do not engage in regular physical activity have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, according to a new study

Women who do not engage in regular physical activity have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, according to a case-control study published in the Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease.

Even a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per week led to a significant reduction in a woman’s risk of a cervical cancer diagnosis, according to the research.

“To our knowledge, this is the first US-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,” said study author J. Brian Szender, MD, MPH, a fellow in the department of gynecologic oncology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, in a statement.

Szender and colleagues analyzed data from 128 women diagnosed with cervical cancer and 512 women who were evaluated for suspected cervical neoplasms but not ultimately diagnosed with cervical cancer. All patients studied were treated at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Patients studied submitted physical activity information via a questionnaire. Physical activity was defined as four sessions of physical activity per month or more.

Women who reported that they did not engage in any physical activity were 2.43 times more likely to develop cervical cancer compared with women who reported that they exercise, according to the results.

In an age-adjusted model, the odds of women with cervical cancer reporting no participation in physical activity were twice as high compared with the control group (odds ratio [OR], 2.16). There was no difference in reported occupational physical activity between the two groups (OR, 1.02).

Among women with cervical cancer, the odds of reporting no recreational physical activity over the 20 years prior to their diagnosis were also higher (OR, 1.97).

The difference in risk remained after taking into account history of smoking, alcohol consumption, family history of cervical cancer, and body mass index. Patients with cervical cancer were more likely to have not completed high school, have a family history of cervical cancer, and be obese.

Larger, prospective studies are needed to confirm whether exercise can indeed diminish the risk of cervical cancer.

“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,” said study author Kirsten Moysich, PhD, MS, professor of oncology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in a statement.