A risk factor is something that increases your chance of developing a disease. There are several factors known to increase cancer risk. However, keep in mind that the majority of cancers occur in people who don’t have any known risk factors. Risk factors for cancer include:
Advancing age is the most important risk factor for cancer overall, and for many individual cancer types. Most people diagnosed with cancer are 65 or older. But cancer can occur at any age. Bone cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people under age 20, with more than one-fourth of cases occurring in this age group. Ten percent of leukemia cases are diagnosed in children and adolescents under 20 years of age.
Smoking, drinking more than one alcoholic drink a day (for women of all ages and men older than age 65) or two drinks a day (for men age 65 and younger), excessive exposure to the sun or frequent blistering sunburns, being obese, and having unsafe sex can contribute to cancer.
Your family history
If cancer is common in your family, talk to your doctor about genetic testing. Genetic testing can determine whether you have inherited genetic mutations that might increase your risk of certain cancers.
Your health conditions
Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease, increase the risk of colon cancer.
The environment around you may contain harmful chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer. Non-smokers might inhale secondhand smoke if they go to places where people are smoking or if they live with someone who smokes. Chemicals in the home or workplace, such as asbestos and benzene, are also associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Talk to your doctor for more information about cancer risk factors and how to lower your risk for cancer.
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