Estimates of the current and future burden of cancer attributable to sedentary behavior in Canada Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Leisure-time sedentary behavior is an emerging modifiable risk factor for cancer. We estimated the proportion of cancers attributed to leisure-time sedentary behavior as a separate risk factor from physical activity in Canada for 2015. We projected numbers of future avoidable cancers by 2042 using various assumed levels of reduced leisure-time sedentary behavior in the population. We calculated population attributable risks (PAR) for associated cancers and all-cancers associated with leisure-time sedentary behavior. Our analysis used pooled data on leisure-time sedentary behavior from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), and incident cancer data from the Canadian Cancer Registry (CCR). Survey respondents were categorized into three levels of leisure-time sedentary behavior, "<3 h/day", "≥3-<6 h/day", and "≥6 h/day". Estimates for the future burden of leisure-time sedentary behavior were calculated using the potential impact fractions framework (PIF) and counterfactual scenarios, from 10% to 50% decreases in leisure-time sedentary behavior. The estimated prevalence of leisure-time sedentary behavior at the highest level (≥6 h/day) in Canada during the 2000s was 9.9% among both sexes combined across age-groups. The total attributable burden due to leisure-time sedentary behavior was estimated to be 10.3% for associated cancers and 6.5% for all-cancers in 2015. A 50% reduction in leisure-time sedentary behavior across the Canadian population could avoid 4054 cancers by 2042. We estimated that over 3000 cancer cases in Canada were attributable to leisure-time sedentary behavior in 2015, and that that 4054 incident cancer cases could be prevented by 2042 with meaningful reductions in leisure-time sedentary behavior.


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

publication date

  • May 2019