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Cancer Risk Factors

Am I Likely to Develop Cancer?

man ponderingAccording to the National Cancer Institute, a risk factor is anything that raises or lowers a person’s chance of developing a disease. Although doctors can seldom explain why one person develops the disease and another does not, researchers have identified specific factors that increase a person’s chances of developing certain types of cancers.

Cancer risk factors can be divided into four groups:

Most behavioral and environmental cancer risk factors can be avoided. Biological and hereditary risk factors are unavoidable, but it's important to be aware of them so you can discuss them with your doctor and get screened for cancer, if necessary.

What Can I Do?

doctor and patientTo better understand your cancer risk factors, take a few minutes to complete our Cancer Risk Check. This short questionnaire will provide personalized suggestions for lifestyle changes and screening exams that may help you prevent cancer. Share your results with your doctor so he or she can determine what screening tests and regular checkups you need.

Remember, many people who develop cancer have no known risk factors, and most people who do have risk factors don't get the disease. So, it's important to see your doctor regularly for checkups and talk to him or her about which cancer screening tests are right for you. 

What Risk Factors Exist for Different Types of Cancer? 

Breast Cancerembracing

  • Age – most cases occur in women age 50 or older
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer before menopause (mother, sister or daughter)
  • Abnormal breast biopsy results
  • Lobular or ductal carcinoma in situ or atypical hyperplasia
  • First period before age 12
  • Menopause after age 55
  • Never being pregnant or having your first child after age 30
  • Higher education and socioeconomic status
  • Women in this group tend to have fewer children
  • Obesity or weight gain after menopause
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Suspected risk factors include:

Cervical Cancerloving couple

  • First intercourse at an early age
  • Multiple sex partners (either of the woman or her partner)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Race – More cases occur in African American, Hispanic and American Indian women
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth
  • HIV infection
  • Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic steroid use

Colorectal Cancer hands with cigarettes and apple

Endometrial Cancer (also called Uterine Cancer)

  • Increasing age
  • Increased estrogen exposure
  • First period before age 12
  • Menopause after age 55
  • Hormonal therapy without the use of progestin
  • Never being pregnant
  • History of infertility
  • Personal history of hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer
  • Obesity
  • Use of tamoxifen

Lung Cancer

Ovarian Cancer

  • Age – most common in people over age 50
  • Family history of ovarian (mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, or aunt)
  • Inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Northern European and/or Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
  • Never being pregnant
  • Suspected risk factors include:
    • Fertility drugs
    • Exposure to talcum powder 
    • Hormone replacement therapy
    • Obesity

Prostate Cancer

son and dad walking

Skin Cancer

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