Risk Factors

While doctors have an idea of what may increase your risk of cancer, the majority of cancers occur in people who don’t have any known risk factors. Factors known to increase your risk of cancer include:

  • Age:  Cancer can take decades to develop. That’s why most people diagnosed with cancer are 65 or older. While it’s more common in older adults, cancer isn’t exclusively an adult disease — cancer can be diagnosed at any age.
  • Habits:  Smoking, drinking more than one drink a day (for women) or two drinks a day (for men), excessive exposure to the sun or frequent blistering sunburns, and having unsafe sex can contribute to cancer.
  • Family History: If cancer is common in your family, it’s possible that mutations are being passed from one generation to the next. However, this does not mean that because of an inherited genetic mutation, you will get cancer.
  • Health Conditions:  Some chronic health conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, can markedly increase your risk of developing certain cancers. Talk to your doctor about your risk.
  • Environment:
    The environment around you may contain harmful chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer. Inhaling secondhand smoke if you go where people are smoking or you live with someone who smokes. Chemicals like asbestos and benzene, also are believed to be some of the risk factors for this disease.