Although substantial evidence supports a 20-30% risk reduction of colon cancer, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer by physical activity (PA), the evidence for head and neck cancer (HNC) is limited. Three published studies on the association between PA and HNC have generated inconsistent results. The current study examined the association between recreational PA (RPA) and HNC risk with a more detailed assessment on the intensity, frequency, duration, and total years of RPA.
Data on RPA were collected from 623 HNC cases and 731 controls by in-person interview using a standardized questionnaire. The association between RPA and HNC risk was assessed using unconditional logistic regression, adjusted for sex, age, educational level, use of alcohol, betel quid, and cigarette, and consumption of vegetables and fruits.
A significant inverse association between RPA and HNC risk was observed in a logistic regression model that adjusted for sex, age, and education (odds ratio (OR) = 0.65, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.51-0.82). However, after further adjustment for the use of alcohol, betel quid, and cigarette, and consumption of vegetables and fruits, RPA was no longer associated with HNC risk (OR =0.97, 95% CI: 0.73-1.28). No significant inverse association between RPA and HNC risk was observed in the analysis stratified by HNC sites or by the use of alcohol, betel quid, or cigarette.
Results from our study did not support an inverse association between RPA and HNC risk. The major focus of HNC prevention should be on cessation of cigarette smoking and betel chewing, reduction of alcohol drinking, and promotion of healthy diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables.