Risk Factors for Cancer

It is usually not possible to know exactly why one person develops cancer and another doesn’t. But research has shown that certain risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing cancer. (There are also factors that are linked to a lower risk of cancer. These are sometimes called protective risk factors, or just protective factors.)

Cancer risk factors include exposure to chemicals or other substances, as well as certain behaviors. They also include things people cannot control, like age and family history. A family history of certain cancers can be a sign of a possible inherited cancer syndrome.

Most cancer risk (and protective) factors are initially identified in epidemiology studies. In these studies, scientists look at large groups of people and compare those who develop cancer with those who don’t. These studies may show that the people who develop cancer are more or less likely to behave in certain ways or to be exposed to certain substances than those who do not develop cancer.

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Such studies, on their own, cannot prove that a behavior or substance causes cancer. For example, the finding could be a result of chance, or the true risk factor could be something other than the suspected risk factor. But findings of this type sometimes get attention in the media, and this can lead to wrong ideas about how cancer starts and spreads.

When many studies all point to a similar association between a potential risk factor and an increased risk of cancer, and when a possible mechanism exists that could explain how the risk factor could actually cause cancer, scientists can be more confident about the relationship between the two.

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The list below includes the most-studied known or suspected risk factors for cancer. Although some of these risk factors can be avoided, others—such as growing older—cannot. Limiting your exposure to avoidable risk factors may lower your risk of developing certain cancers.

  • Age
  • Alcohol
  • Cancer-Causing Substances
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • Diet
  • Hormones
  • Immunosuppression
  • Infectious Agents
  • Obesity
  • Radiation
  • Sunlight
  • Tobacco
Risk factors in health and disease Introduction Health and wellbeing are affected by many factors – those linked to poor health, disability, disease or death, are known as risk factors. A risk factor is a characteristic, condition, or behaviour that increases the likelihood of getting a disease or injury. Risk factors are often presented individually, however in practice they do not occur alone. They often coexist and interact with one another. For example, physical inactivity will, over time, cause weight gain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Together, these significantly increase the chance of developing chronic heart diseases and other health related problems. Ageing populations and longer life expectancy have led to an increase in long-term (chronic), expensive-to-treat diseases and disabilities. There is a rising demand for healthcare, placing the sector under increasing budget pressure which is not always met. It is important that we, as a society and users of healthcare systems, understand th...
Asthma Risk Factors The most common risk factors for developing asthma is having a parent with asthma, having frequent respiratory infections as a child, having an allergic condition, or being exposed to certain chemical irritants or industrial dusts in the workplace. What puts people at risk for developing asthma? Family history If you have a parent with asthma, you are three to six times more likely to develop asthma than someone who does not have a parent with asthma. Viral respiratory infections Respiratory problems during infancy and childhood can cause wheezing. Some children who experience viral respiratory infections go on to develop chronic asthma. Allergies Having an allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) or allergic rhinitis (hay fever), is a risk factor for developing asthma. Occupational exposures If you have asthma, exposures to certain elements in the workplace can cause of asthma symptoms. And, for some people, exposure to certain dusts (industrial or woo...
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes Your chances of developing type 2 diabetes depend on a combination of risk factors such as your genes and lifestyle. Although you can’t change risk factors such as family history, age, or ethnicity, you can change lifestyle risk factors around eating, physical activity, and weight. These lifestyle changes can affect your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Read about risk factors for type 2 diabetes below and see which ones apply to you. Taking action on the factors you can change can help you delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are overweight or obese are age 45 or older have a family history of diabetes are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander have high blood pressure have a low level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, or a high level of triglycerides have a history of gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 p...
Predisposing Factors A predisposing factor is a condition or situation that may make a person more at risk or susceptible to disease. Some ⚡ predisposing factors ⚡ include heredity, age, gender, environment, and lifestyle. Heredity is a ⚡ predisposing factor ⚡ when a trait inherited from a parent puts an individual at risk for certain diseases. Cystic fibrosis (ICD-9: 277.00), sickle cell anemia (ICD-9: 282.60), and Down syndrome (ICD-9: 758.0) are examples of hereditary diseases related to genetic abnormalities. If hereditary risks are known, individuals can be better prepared to prevent, treat, or cope with possible problems. Age is a risk factor related to the life cycle. For example, adenoid hyperplasia (ICD-9: 474.12), acute tonsillitis (ICD-9: 463), and otitis media (ICD-9: 382.9) are more common among children than adults. Older adults are at greater risk than younger adults for degenerative arthritis (ICD-9: 715.9) and senile dementia (ICD-9: 290.0). Elderly persons have unique problems that ...