Moderate exercise reduces the risk of developing 13 kinds of cancer

Exercise such as cycling or going for a brisk walk can help stave off 13 types of cancer, suggests new research.

A study of around 1.4 million people found that those who did more physical activity in their leisure time dramatically reduced their risk of developing the diseases. They were 27 percent less likely to develop liver cancer, for example, and were 26 and 23 percent less likely respectively to develop lung and kidney cancer. Other cancers which exercise was found to protect against included endometrial, myeloid, leukaemia, colon, head and neck, bladder, rectal and breast.

Overall, a higher level of physical activity reduced the risk of suffering any type of cancer by seven percent.

Previous research has shown only two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity a week, such as mowing the lawn or DIY, can suppress inflammation in the body which is believed to contribute to disease.

Middle-aged participants who got off the sofa and became active were found to have lower 'inflammatory markers' in their blood at the end of the ten-year study of over 4,000 civil servants by University College London. Inflammation levels remained lower in those approaching and living in retirement who were physically active compared with those who did relatively little.

A survey last year found British fitness levels are among the worst in Europe with 44 percent of adults doing no moderate exercise, defined as exercise that raises the heart rate of causes sweating. About five million spend more than eight hours a day sitting down and one in ten admitted they never walk for more than ten minutes at a time. Overall, Britain is ranked 16th out of 28 European countries for fitness levels - on a par with Slovakia, Romania and Ireland.

Dr. Steven Moore, epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, said: “These findings support promoting physical activity as a key component of population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts.” However, he said he could not fully exclude the possibility that diet, smoking and other factors may have affected the results. He also cautioned that the study used data provided by self-reported physical activity, which meant there was a possibility of some errors in recall.