Can too much TV cause cancer?


A recent study is bringing bad news to couch potatoes all over the world. Everyone’s favorite lazy activity is now being linked to cancer. New research shows a link between prolonged sitting while viewing TV and an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer before the age of 50. Colorectal cancer that develops before the age of 50 is unfortunately often more aggressive with poorer rates of survival. 

Researchers looked at almost 90,000 people and compared their risk of getting colorectal cancer and the amount of time they spent watching TV. Analysis revealed that sitting and watching TV every day for more than 1 hour was tied to a 12 percent higher risk of developing young-onset colorectal cancer (getting it before age 50). The risk increased with more TV viewing time. Sitting and watching TV for more than 2 hours per day was tied to a risk of young-onset colorectal cancer that was nearly 70 percent higher. 

This effect was seen even when researchers accounted for other possible confounding factors including BMI (Body Mass Index), diet, smoking, family history and exercise (meaning that even among people with the same BMI, those that sat and watched  TV longer, had higher rates of cancer.) While at this time it’s unclear why this happens, researchers have several theories including that prolonged sitting gives cancer-causing agents in feces more time to affect the gut. 

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum, which together form the final section of the digestive tract (mouth → esophagus (food pipe) → stomach → intestines → colon → rectum → anus → poop). The colon helps to break down undigested food and extracts water and salts from it. The rectum holds the waste before it is “evacuated” through the anus in the form of stool (poop). Usually colorectal cancer arises from small growths in the lining of the colon or rectum (also called polyps). Not all polyps are cancerous and it usually takes many years for polyps to turn into tumors.

In the United States it is the 4th most common cancer – there are over 1.3 million people with it. Around the world it is the third most common cancer, with an estimated 1.4 million new cases every year. Early onset colorectal cancer (that which is diagnosed before the age 50) is considered rare but is on the rise!

The big takeaway?

Stay active!! Get up, go outside, and keep your butt active!

Deep Parikh