Cancer Risk Factors
Doctors often cannot explain why one person develops cancer and another does not. But research shows that certain risk factors increase the chance that a person will develop cancer. These are the most common risk factors for cancer:
Many of these risk factors can be avoided. Others, such as family history, cannot be avoided. People can help protect themselves by staying away from known risk factors whenever possible.
If you think you may be at risk for cancer, you should discuss this concern with your doctor. You may want to ask about reducing your risk and about a schedule for checkups.
Over time, several factors may act together to cause normal cells to become cancerous. When thinking about your risk of getting cancer, these are some things to keep in mind:
The sections below have more detailed information about the most common risk factors for cancer. You also may want to read the NCI booklet Cancer and the Environment.
Viewers share their comments
Cancer Risk Factors - Diet and Exercise Question: In what ways does risk or fear of cancer influence your diet and exercise? Have you changed your lifestyle?
Cancer Risk Factors - Sunlight Question: Were you diagnosed with skin cancer? Can you recall excessive sun exposure? Please share your story.
Cancer Risk Factors - Tobacco Question: Did/do you smoke or chew tobacco and have been diagnosed with cancer? Please share your experience.
Cancer Risk Factors - Chemicals and Substances Question: Were you diagnosed with cancer? Have you ever been exposed to chemicals? Please share your story.
Cancer Risk Factors - Family History Question: Is there a history of cancer in your family? What are your concerns?
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