NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Being active during adolescence and in adulthood appears to reduce the likelihood of developing kidney cancer later in life, a study shows.

Dr. Steven C. Moore of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and colleagues analyzed data on nearly half a million people aged 50 to 71 who responded to a survey about their diet and level of physical activity, currently and in their teen years.

The study collected reports on how often during the previous year participants obtained 20 minutes of strenuous exercise; their current level of sitting, walking, standing, climbing stairs and doing heavy work during routine daily activities; and the physical activities they engaged in when 15 to 18 years old.

During 8 years of follow-up, 1238 cases of renal cell cancer occurred.

Compared to people with the lowest current level of strenuous physical activity, those with the highest levels had 23 percent less risk of developing kidney cancer, Moore and colleagues found.

The risk was reduced by 16 percent for those who currently engaged in routine activity compared to those who did not, and by 18 percent for physical activity during adolescence, the investigators report in American Journal of Epidemiology.

“Good health habits relatively early in life, in addition to later in life, may be important to preventing this disease,” Moore told Reuters Health.

Established risk factors for renal cell cancer include smoking, high blood pressure, and being overweight, but the disease’s link to levels of lifetime physical activity remained unclear.

“These findings present strong evidence for a link between physical activity and reduced renal cell cancer risk,” Moore said. Further research might answer whether specific types of physical activity are particularly protective, he noted.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, July 2008