Learn About Cancer Risks

There are a large variety of factors that could increase your risk of developing cancer. Cancer risks are generally the same for all types of cancer, with smoking being at the top of the list in most cases.

Any substance or condition that increases your chances of developing cancer is known as a risk factor for cancer.

There are very few types of cancer that have one, positively proven cause. With most types of cancer, there is a complex combination of various factors.

Individual cases also vary. What might cause one person to develop cancer, will not affect another.

Cancer risks are usually either hereditary, or caused by lifestyle choices or exposure to carcinogens (known cancer-causing substances), or a combination of one or two of these factors.

Hereditary cancers may begin to develop at or before birth, but may not show up until years later. Lifestyle-related cancers and cancers caused by carcinogens can take years to develop. The longer you participate in an unhealthy lifestyle, or are exposed to carcinogens, the greater the risk becomes.

Cancer In Your Family? Don't Panic

Not all people with cancer risks develop cancer. In fact, some people with low risk factors develop cancer, while some people with many high risk factors never develop cancer at all.

Doctors and scientists don't know for sure why certain people get cancer and others don't.

Over the years, through various studies, researchers have come to a better understanding of how cancer develops and grows, but not why, under the same conditions, some people are affected and others aren't.

Researchers evaluate scientific data to determine whether a substance may cause cancer.

If your doctor suspects cancer, then you may be sent for an MRI or other screening test

How Cancer Risks Are Assessed

There are three main things scientists look at to determine cancer risks:

  • The amount, frequency and circumstances under which people are exposed to certain suspect substances. Scientists are more convinced that exposure to these substances is related to the risk of developing cancer if the risk increases when exposure increases, and the risk decreases when exposure decreases.
  • How strong the evidence is, and how consistent the statistics are that there is a relationship between being exposed to this substance and the risk of developing cancer.
  • Similarities between studies done on live participants and in laboratory tests. When the conclusions found in both types of studies are similar, scientists are more convinced that there may be a connection between exposure to the substance and an increased risk of developing cancer.

Assessing Your Own Risks of Cancer

These days with just about everything we eat, drink, do or smell possibly being carcinogenic, people are very concerned about their own risk of developing cancer.

This is especially true with people who have lost close relatives to cancer. Some go as far as to remove body parts to decrease the risk.

Assessing the risk of developing cancer involves examining factors which may put a person in the high risk category, such as:

  • The age of the person. People over the age of 50 are generally at a higher risk
  • The current overall health of the person and his health history
  • Family health history
  • Lifestyle, such as whether the person smokes, abuses alcohol or drugs
  • Weight and diet choices

A risk assessment will help you identify possible cancer risks, so that you can change these factors in your life in order to reduce your chances of developing cancer.

Reducing the Risk of Developing Cancer

The first thing every doctor will tell you is that if you smoke, stop. Whether you suffer from kidney failure, heart disease or a broken leg, that is always the first thing you hear.

Smoking is one of the major cancer risk factors

Of course, there is nothing good about smoking. It is a bad habit that costs much more than it is worth.

But not every smoker dies from cancer or heart disease, so there is no concrete evidence that cigarettes kill. You should quit anyway, as it will greatly reduce your risk of developing cancer, and you will have much more energy.

You can reduce your exposure to known carcinogens, but since new carcinogens are being identified every day, you might already have been over-exposed. Asbestos was only identified as a carcinogen a few decades ago, and second-hand smoke even later.

There are some risk factors that you can't avoid, such as age or hereditary cancer genes.

Unfortunately, there are also many people who make healthy lifestyle choices, eat right and do everything they can to reduce their risk of developing cancer, but still do.

They develop cancer without any identifiable cancer risks at all. These are the cases that have doctors and scientists baffled the most.

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