Cancer Risk Factors That Are Essential to Pay Attention To

cancer risk factors

Cancer is brutal. It can be quiet or even silent, invading your body’s healthy cells before you know it exists. Unfortunately, cancer causes up to 600,000 deaths per year in the United States. Certain risk factors raise your chances of developing cancer in your lifetime.

Knowing your cancer risk factors can help you identify the signs and symptoms and implement prevention strategies. Certain types of cancer are entirely preventable if you change your lifestyle. Here are some cancer risk factors you should know about. 

Genetics and Family History: How Your Family’s Past Can Warn You

Genetics influence cancer in ways that are not fully understood yet. This means that if one or more of your relatives have battled cancer, your risks are higher. Some cancers can be passed down through genetics outright. 

The Link Between Cancer and Genetics

Scientists believe cancer has a strong genetic component because of cell mutations. When a cell mutates, it may trigger unrestricted cell growth, leading to the development of invasive cancers. If your family members have high rates of cell mutations (benign or otherwise), they may pass down the faulty genes responsible for these mutations. 

This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to get cancer if your relatives have it. However, this is an important cancer risk factor to keep an eye on throughout your life. 

Smoking and Secondhand Smoke

One of the most well-known cancer risk factors is cigarette smoking. Smoking is linked to 80% of lung cancer cases and deaths in the U.S. Even cigarettes with filters are harmful to your health. 

Secondhand smoke, which is what comes off the unsmoked end of a cigarette, also contributes to lung and oral cancers. Just living or spending lots of time with someone who smokes cigarettes can raise your chances of getting lung cancer by 20-30%. In other words, breathing in cigarette smoke can raise your risk for cancer even if you don’t smoke yourself. 

Drinking Alcohol

Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol is a serious cancer risk factor. If you’re consuming more than one or two drinks per day, you’re increasing your risk for oral, liver, and breast cancer. These risks increase significantly if you also use tobacco products, namely cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.  

UV Exposure: Sunlight and Tanning Beds

Any type of tanning, whether in natural sunlight or tanning beds, significantly raises your risk of developing skin cancer. UV rays damage the DNA in your skin cells, which can lead to mutations and unrestricted cell growth. This is one of the most common cancer risk factors for melanoma, which has the highest death rate of all cancers

The best way to combat this risk is to wear sunscreen every day and avoid tanning beds. Use products with SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin for life. 

Being Overweight or Obese: Inactivity and Poor Nutrition

If your weight is higher than the recommended healthy range for your height and gender, you’re at higher risk of developing cancer. Luckily, this problem is reversible through diet and lifestyle changes. 

Obesity makes it harder for your body to fight off health threats and can burden your system. This means cancer can easily take over your body and compromise your organs. 

If you want to fight off this and other cancer risk factors, eat a nutritious diet and get plenty of physical activity. This will keep your body in good shape and promote better health throughout your lifetime.

Know Your Cancer Risk Factors

Don’t neglect your health, even if you’re still young. Keep an eye on these important cancer risk factors so you can get the necessary health screenings and tests as you age.