Physical activity and head and neck cancer risk

Michael F. Leitzmann, Corinna Koebnick, Neal D. Freedman, Yikyung Park, Rachel Ballard-Barbash, Albert R. Hollenbeck, Arthur Schatzkin, Christian C. Abnet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the relation of physical activity to head and neck cancer. Methods: We prospectively examined the association between physical activity and head and neck cancer in 487,732 men and women, who, at baseline in 1995-1996, were 50-71 years old and free of cancer and emphysema. Follow-up occurred through 31 December 2003. Results: During follow-up, 1,249 participants developed head and neck cancer, of which 42.0%, 18.9%, and 32.5% were located in the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx, respectively. In analyses adjusted for age and gender, the relative risks (RR) of head and neck cancer for increasing frequency of physical activity (0, < 1, 1-2, 3-4, and ≥5 times per week) were 1.0 (reference), 0.76, 0.66, 0.57, and 0.62 (95% CI = 0.52-0.74), respectively (p for trend < 0.001). After multivariate adjustment including smoking, the relation was attenuated and became statistically non-significant (RR comparing extreme physical activity categories = 0.89, 95% CI = 0.74-1.06; p for trend = 0.272). In analyses of head and neck cancer subtypes, the corresponding RRs for cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx were 0.98 (95% CI = 0.75-1.29), 0.70 (95% CI = 0.45-1.08), and 0.82 (95% CI = 0.59-1.13), respectively. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that physical activity is unlikely to play an important role in the prevention of head and neck cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1391-1399
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Causes and Control
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Head and neck cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Oral cavity cancer
  • Pharynx cancer
  • Physical activity


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