Any decrease in cancer risk associated with physical activity could be relevant to public health and cancer prevention efforts, they said.
Steven C Moore from National Cancer Institute in the US and colleagues pooled data from 12 US and European cohorts with self-reported physical activity (1987-2004). They analysed associations of physical activity with the incidence of 26 kinds of cancer.
The study included 1.4 million participants and 186,932 cancers were identified during a median of 11 years of follow-up.
Researchers found that higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower risk of 13 of 26 cancers – esophageal adenocarcinoma (42 per cent), liver (27 per cent), lung (26 percent); kidney (23 per cent), gastric cardia (22 per cent) and endometrial (21 per cent).
Regular exercise also led to a lower risk for cancers like myeloid leukemia (20 per cent), myeloma (17 per cent), colon (16 per cent), head and neck (15 per cent), rectal (13 per cent), bladder (13 per cent) and breast (10 per cent). Most of the associations remained regardless of body size or smoking history, the study found.
Overall, a higher level of physical activity was associated with a 7 per cent lower risk of total cancer, researchers said.
“These findings support promoting physical activity as a key component of population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts,” researchers said.
The findings were published in the journal JAMA.