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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The association between active participation in a sports club, physical activity and social network on the development of lung cancer in smokers: a case-control study

Anna Schmidt1*, Julia Jung1, Nicole Ernstmann1, Elke Driller1, Melanie Neumann2, Andrea Staratschek-Jox3, Christian Schneider4, Jürgen Wolf5 and Holger Pfaff1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Medical Sociology, Health Services Research and Rehabilitation Science (IMVR), Faculty of Human Science and Faculty of Medicine, University of Cologne, Eupener Strasse 129, Cologne 50933, Germany

2 Gerhard Kienle Institute for Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine; Integrated Curriculum for Anthroposophic Medicine (ICURAM), Medical Department of the Private University of Witten/Herdecke, Gerhard-Kienle-Weg 4, Herdecke 58313, Germany

3 LIMES (Life and Medical Sciences Bonn), Genomics and Immunoregulation, University of Bonn, Karlrobert-Kreiten Strasse 13, Bonn 53115, Germany

4 Department III for Internal Medicine, University Hospital of Cologne, Kerpener Strasse. 62, Cologne 50937, Germany

5 First Department of Internal Medicine, Molecular Tumour Biology and Tumour Immunology & Centre for Integrated Oncology (CIO), University Hospital of Cologne, Kerpener Strasse 62, Cologne 50937, Germany

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:2  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-2

Published: 4 January 2012



This study analyses the effect of active participation in a sports club, physical activity and social networks on the development of lung cancer in patients who smoke. Our hypothesis is that study participants who lack social networks and do not actively participate in a sports club are at a greater risk for lung cancer than those who do.


Data for the study were taken from the Cologne Smoking Study (CoSmoS), a retrospective case-control study examining potential psychosocial risk factors for the development of lung cancer. Our sample consisted of n = 158 participants who had suffered lung cancer (diagnosis in the patient document) and n = 144 control group participants. Both groups had a history of smoking.

Data on social networks were collected by asking participants whether they participated in a sports club and about the number of friends and relatives in their social environment. In addition, sociodemographic data (gender, age, education, marital status, residence and religion), physical activity and data on pack years (the cumulative number of cigarettes smoked by an individual, calculated by multiplying the number of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person has smoked divided by 20) were collected to control for potential confounders. Logistic regression was used for the statistical analysis.


The results reveal that participants who are physically active are at a lower risk of lung cancer than those who are not (adjusted OR = 0.53*; CI = 0.29-0.97). Older age and lower education seem also to be risk factors for the development of lung cancer. The extent of smoking, furthermore, measured by pack years is statistically significant. Active participation in a sports club, number of friends and relatives had no statistically significant influence on the development of the cancer.


The results of the study suggest that there is a lower risk for physically active participants to develop lung cancer. In the study sample, physical activity seemed to have a greater protective effect than participation in a sports club or social network of friends and relatives. Further studies have to investigate in more detail physical activity and other club participations.

Social network; Sports club; Physical activity; Lung cancer; Smokers; Germany