For most cancers, the specific cause is often unknown. When cells develop with no control and invade nearby areas, it is often due to a combination of factors. These cancers develop over a while and are often due to a number of factors called risk factors. A risk factor is any attribute or feature that increases the possibility of developing a disease condition. The risk factors may be due to one’s genes, environment or lifestyle.
Risk factors vary for different types of cancers and may be modifiable (can be changed; like body weight) or non-modifiable (unchangeable; like age and race).
The following are the most common risk factors for the common cancers today:
- Smoking: Smoking tobacco is responsible for more than 16 different types of cancers and causes about 20% of all deaths due to cancer globally. All forms of tobacco may cause cancer as tobacco contains a wide variety of harmful substances. Lung cancer, oesophageal cancer, laryngeal cancer and pharyngeal cancer are very common in smokers.
- Infection: Many of the most common cancers are partly due to infections. About 16% of cancers diagnosed every year are due to infections. The most common infections responsible for cancer are Helicobacter Pylori (responsible for gastric cancer), Human papillomavirus (responsible for cervical, vulvar, anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancer), and hepatitis B and C viruses (responsible for liver cancer). These infections are more common in underdeveloped parts of the world.
- Activity levels and poor diet: Excess body weight increases the possibility of developing some cancers such as cancer of the oesophagus, pancreas and kidneys. Diets low in fruits, vegetables and fibre but rich in processed food items, and additives are associated with an increased risk of developing some cancer types.
Regular moderate exercise reduces the risk of developing cancer.
- Radiation: Exposure to radiation increases the risks of developing cancers. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Sunscreen helps protect the skin against ultraviolet radiation. Exposure to radiation from other sources also increases the possibility of cancer.
- Pollutants and occupational exposures: Substances in the environment and workplace may increase the risk of developing some form of cancer. Indoor and outdoor air pollution are particularly high in the developed world. Numerous substances in workplaces, especially in industries are known to cause cancer. For example, asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Diesel exhaust is also a carcinogen.
- Alcohol use: The chances of developing cancer may be increased with alcohol use, especially liver, bowel and breast cancer. It is also responsible for about 4% of all deaths due to cancer.
- Genetic susceptibility: Some people are born with an increased risk of developing specific cancers due to their defects in their genes – the unit of transmitting information from parents to their offspring. You can get your genetic testing done today at 54 gene
- Hormones: These are substances produced in the body which help to regulate processes like ovulation. Starting menstruation early, late menopause, usage of some hormonal contraceptives and early age at first full pregnancy may increase the risk of developing some cancers.
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Until the next episode. Remember; Prevention is a cheaper curative form of medicine. Stay healthy always.
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