Introduction: Western lifestyle characterized by increased consumption of red meat, fat, processed food, smoking, alcohol drinking, lower consumption of vegetables and physical inactivity has been associated with a higher gastrointestinal cancer risk. Digestive system cancers are diagnosed at late stages when they show poor response to treatment and are associated with a high mortality rate. Colorectal, gastric, esophageal and pancreatic cancers are among the most common cancers worldwide. Studies show that more than 50% of gastrointestinal cancers develop as a result of inappropriate lifestyle. An inverse association between physical activity and many chronic diseases has been proved so far. However, the association between physical activity and some gastrointestinal cancers is still controversial. This study was aimed to determine the association between physical activity and gastrointestinal cancers risk.
Methods: We conducted a comprehensive search of English and Persian databases from February 2007 till December 2017, for studies investigating the association of physical activity and risk of gastrointestinal cancers. Finally, after reading full text of articles, 123 studies were included.
Results: Physical activity can be helpful in reducing the risk of gastrointestinal cancer, especially colon and pancreatic cancers. The risk reduction is not similar for different types of gastrointestinal cancers and also among males and females.
Conclusion: Different types of physical activity are associated with a lower risk of gastrointestinal cancer. However, it is unknown which type and intensity of physical activity are associated with a protective effect against gastro-intestinal cancer.