Background: Exercise may increase the inhalation and deposition of air pollutants, which may counteract its beneficial effects. We thus examined the combined effects of chronic exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and habitual exercise on the risk of death from cancer in Taiwan. Patients and methods: A total of 384 128 adults (≥18 years of age) were recruited for a medical screening programme between 2001 and 2016, yielding 842 384 medical-examination records. All participants were followed up until 31 May 2019. Vital data were obtained from the National Death Registry of Taiwan and the ambient PM2.5 exposure was estimated using a satellite-based spatiotemporal model. Information on habitual exercise was collected using a standard self-administered questionnaire. The time-dependent Cox-regression model was used to evaluate the combined effects. Results: A greater amount of habitual exercise was associated with lower risk of death from cancer, whilst a higher level of PM2.5 exposure was associated with a higher risk of death from cancer. The inverse associations of habitual exercise with death from cancer were not modified by chronic exposure to PM2.5. The participants in the group with a high level of exercise and a low level of PM2.5 exposure exhibited a 35% lower risk of death from cancer than those in the group with a low level of exercise and a high level of PM2.5 exposure (95% confidence interval: 28%, 42%). Conclusions: Increased levels of exercise and reduced exposure levels of PM2.5 are associated with a lower risk of death from cancer. Habitual exercise reduces the risk of death from cancer regardless of the levels of chronic PM2.5 exposure. Our results indicate that habitual exercise is a suitable health-promotion strategy even for people who reside in moderately polluted regions.
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