Estimates of the current and future burden of cancer attributable to lack of physical activity in Canada Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Physical activity reduces the risk of many cancers, yet the prevalence of inadequate physical activity among Canadians remains high. Here we estimated the current attributable and future avoidable burden of cancer related to inadequate physical activity among Canadian adults. Population attributable risk (PAR) for all cancers associated with inadequate physical activity were estimated using relative risks obtained from comprehensive reports, meta-analyses and pooled analyses. Cancer incidence data were acquired from the Canadian Cancer Registry. Physical activity data were taken from Canadian Community Health Survey (Cycle 2.1, 2003), in which respondents were classified as "physically inactive" (<1.5 kcal/kg/day), "moderately active" (1.5-2.9 kcal/kg/day) or "physically active (≥3.0 kcal/kg/day). We defined "inadequate physical activity" as being either "physically inactive" or "moderately active" to determine the PAR of cancer due to inadequate physical activity. We estimated the future burden of inadequate physical activity using potential impact fractions and a series of intervention scenarios, including 10% to 50% reductions in inadequate physical activity from 2015 to 2042. For 2015, the total attributable burden due to inadequate physical activity for associated cancers was 10.6% and 4.9% for all cancers. A 50% reduction in inadequate physical activity could avoid 39,877 cumulative cases of cancer by 2042. Over 9000 cancer cases in 2015 were estimated to be attributable to inadequate physical activity and 5170 incident cases of cancer could be prevented with increases in physical activity levels by 2042. Policies aimed at increasing physical activity among Canadian could have a meaningful impact for cancer prevention.


  • Friedenreich, Christine M
  • Barberio, Amanda M
  • Pader, Joy
  • Poirier, Abbey E
  • Ruan, Yibing
  • Grevers, Xin
  • Walter, Stephen
  • Villeneuve, Paul J
  • Brenner, Darren R

publication date

  • May 2019