I never considered editing a dangerous job. In fact, editing fulfilled all my safe job criteria: it involved a lot of sitting and could be done in my pajamas. The only danger was an occasional coffee spill. New research finds sedentary desk jobs, such as writing or editing, can increase our risk for cancer—and even exercising every day does not reduce this risk.
Sitting is the new smoking
Excessive sitting has already been found to increase our risk of obesity as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and even depression. According to a recent meta-analysis of 43 observational studies that included over 4 million individuals and 68,936 cancer cases, increased sitting time each day also increases our chance of colon, endometrial and lung cancers. In addition, each two-hour per day increase in sedentary time was related to a statistically significant 8% and 10% increase in colon cancer and endometrial cancer risk, respectively (a 6% increased risk of lung cancer was borderline significant).
Several mechanisms were suggested including increased weight gain and obesity, vitamin D deficiency, and inflammatory responses triggered within the body.
All sitting is not created equal
Sitting watching TV was found to more detrimental than occupational sitting. Another prospective study reported that each two-hour per day increase in TV time was associated with a 23% increased risk of obesity, but only a 5% increased obesity risk for sitting at work time. The authors suggest that this is because we are more likely to snack on unhealthy food while watching TV.
Exercise isn’t enough
Perhaps even more concerning was that adjusting for exercise did not affect the positive association between sedentary behavior and cancer in this most recent study. This means that the increased cancer risk is not just due to inactivity and that exercising after sitting all day isn’t enough to counteract this risk. It is like thinking that going for a jog will make up for smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
But wait—you don’t need to change careers! Read part two to find ways to lessen your risk.