European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 21, Issue 12, pp 877–884 | Cite as

Physical activity and risk of colon cancer in a cohort of Danish middle-aged men and women

  • Nina Føns Johnsen
  • Jane Christensen
  • Birthe Lykke Thomsen
  • Anja Olsen
  • Steffen Loft
  • Kim Overvad
  • Anne Tjønneland



To investigate the effects of occupational activity and leisure time activity on incident colon cancer risk in a Danish middle-aged population.


In the cohort, Diet, Cancer and Health, which included 28,356 women and 26,122 men aged 50–64 years at baseline, 140 women and 157 men were diagnosed with colon cancer from 1993 to 2003. The associations between occupational and leisure time activity in terms of a MET-score and the single activities, sports, cycling, walking, gardening, housework and do-it-yourself work, and incident colon cancer were investigated. Leisure time activity was investigated in two ways using the Cox proportional hazards model: by comparison of active versus non-active and by investigating a possible dose–response relationship while allowing a separate association for non-active individuals.


No associations were found between risk of colon cancer and occupational activity, MET-hours per week of total leisure time activity, residuals from a regression of each activity on the total MET-hours or the time spent on any of the six types of leisure time activities. However, a borderline significant association was found with the number of activities in which the participants were active. For each additional activity IRR = 0.87 (0.76–1.00) for women and IRR = 0.88 (0.78–1.00) for men.


Our data do not support the evidence of an inverse association between colon cancer risk and occupational activity or leisure time activity, but avoiding a sedentary lifestyle by participating in different activities may reduce colon cancer risk.


Colon cancer Inactivity Physical activity 



body mass index


confidence interval


hormone replacement therapy


incidence rate ratio


non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs


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We gratefully acknowledge Katja Boll, programmer, and Jytte Fogh Larsen, secretary, for their contribution in the collection and handling of data.

This work has been supported by grants from the Danish Medical Research Council and the Danish Cancer Society.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nina Føns Johnsen
    • 1
  • Jane Christensen
    • 1
  • Birthe Lykke Thomsen
    • 1
  • Anja Olsen
    • 1
  • Steffen Loft
    • 2
  • Kim Overvad
    • 3
  • Anne Tjønneland
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Cancer EpidemiologyDanish Cancer SocietyCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Institute of Public HealthUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aalborg HospitalAarhus University HospitalAalborgDenmark

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