Corresponding researcher Terry Boyle of the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research at University of Western Australia and colleagues said the research suggests sedentary behavior may increase the risk of some chronic diseases.
The study involved a total of 918 cases and 1,021 controls who participated in a population-based case-control study of colorectal cancer in Western Australia from 2005 to 2007. Data was collected on lifestyle, physical activity and job history.
The estimated effects of sedentary work on the risk of cancers of the proximal colon, distal colon and rectum were analyzed.
Compared with employees who did not spend any time in sedentary work at a desk, study participants who spent 10 or more years working at a desk had almost twice the risk of distal -- descending -- colon cancer and a 44 percent increased risk of rectal -- the final portion of the large intestine -- cancer.
Sedentary work was not associated with the risk of proximal colon cancer -- the ascending colon and transverse colon, or the right side of the abdomen.
However, the findings were independent of recreational physical activity -- no matter how much exercise the study participants did, Boyle said.
The study is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.