Cancer Risk Factors

Cancer Risk Factors

Cancer is a very complex disease. There are more than 200 types of cancers and for one to get cancer, there could be a genetic or environmental reason or both. Genetic factors only play less than 10%, and environmental factors play more than 90% role for someone to get a cancer! Although there are no specific or known reasons that what may cause different type of cancer, listed below are possible risk factors that may play a part in developing cancer:


  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking
  • Benzene
  • Toxins present in the atmosphere (aflatoxins)
  • Occupational exposure such as carcinogens, chemicals and toxins present in the atmosphere
  • Genetic factors
  • Radiation, UV and ionization
  • Obesity
  • Viruses


Healthy diet and cancer

Healthy diet is an essential part in improving your overall health and decreasing your cancer long-term risk. It’s very important to build a full healthy diet plan for you and your family, thus reducing your risk of cancer.

Obesity and its effect on cancer risk

According to the recent studies, 1 of 3 cancer deaths in USA is directly related to obesity, unhealthy diet, and/or low physical activity. All of these factors are closely related to risk of cancer, but obesity seems to establish the strongest linkage with cancer. Roughly obesity is related to one of every five deaths in cancer patients


Types of cancer that are strongly related to cigarette smoking

More than 20 cancer types are due to smoking cigarettes. Following are some of the cancers that are strongly related to smoking cigarettes:

  1. Lung cancer: lung cancer is the most common cancer in both sex, and it’s highly related to cigarette smoking; more than 85% of lung cancer cases are smokers,
  2. Voice box cancer or Laryngeal cancer,
  3. Cancers of mouth, tongue and lips,
  4. Cancer of nose and sinuses,
  5. Throat cancer or pharyngeal cancer ,
  6. Esophageal cancer,
  7. Stomach cancer or gastric cancer,
  8. Pancreatic cancer,
  9. Cervical cancer,
  10. Kidney cancer or renal cancer,
  11. Bladder cancer,
  12. Ovarian cancer, especially mucinous ovarian cancer,
  13. Colon cancer,
  14. Rectal cancer,
  15. Acute myeloid leukemia,
  16. And more...

Cigarette Smoking and Cancer

Since 1982, cigarette smoking is considered to be the single major cause of cancer deaths in USA, based on the United States Surgeon General’s report. According to the recent statistics, 1 of every 5 deaths in USA is due to cigarette smoking. Actually cigarette smoking is ranked as number one on the list of preventable causes of death worldwide.
More than 50% of the people who are smoking will die due to that habit. Yearly, 443,000 persons die in USA due to cigarette smoking. The shocking fact is that cigarette smoking kills much more people in USA than alcohol, suicide, car accidents, AIDS, illegal drugs abuse, and homicide combined!

What types cancers are related to obesity?

Obesity is closely related to the following types of cancer:

  1. Breast cancer especially in women after menopause,
  2. Colon cancer,
  3. Rectal Cancer,
  4. Endometrial cancer which is the cancer of uterus lining,
  5. Esophageal cancer,
  6. Kidney cancer,
  7. Pancreatic cancer.

UV radiation

Ultraviolet radiation is a major risk factor for almost all types of skin cancers. The major source of ultraviolet radiation are sunlight and tanning instruments. Ultraviolet rays own the ability to damage the genetic material or DNA in skin cells.

Does alcohol use affect cancer risk?

People know that alcohol can be the cause of different health problems, however many people don’t know that alcohol can elevate their actual cancer risk. Regardless of the type of alcoholic drink, ethanol is a shared component between all of them. All types of wines, beers, and liquors contain ethanol but in different percentages. According to recent recommendations by health officials, it’s advised not to consume more than 2 drinks daily which is about five ounces of wine, twelve ounces of beer, or one and half ounces of liquor. All these amounts contain the same percentage of ethanol which is about half an ounce. What really matters here is the amount of alcohol being consumed, not the type of it, as all studies suggest that ethanol itself is a major cause of cancer.

Cancer types that are related to alcohol use

Recent studies established the relation between alcohol use and the following types of cancer:

  1. Mouth cancers or oral cancer,
  2. Throat cancer or pharyngeal cancer,
  3. Voice box cancer or laryngeal cancer,
  4. Esophageal cancer,
  5. Liver cancer,
  6. Colon cancer,
  7. Rectal cancer,
  8. Breast cancer,
  9. Pancreatic cancer.

Genetic factors

Certain types of cancer can be prevalent in families via their genes. Cancer maybe inherited through abnormal diseased genes which can run from a generation to next one! Despite this fact, not more than 5% to 10% of cancer cases are inherited. However, vast majority of cancer cases are acquired due to environmental factors and life style.

Genetic factors and cancer risk

For instance, if a family has many reported cases of cancer, it’s most likely due to two reasons; either it’s an accidental finding as cancer is very common nowadays days, or because of some shared risk factors such as cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption. It is less likely, there may be an inherited gene which carries a risk of cancer running in that family.
In medicine, there is an established term which describes those cases of cancers that run in families known as familial cancer syndromes. There are certain red flags that may indicate the possibility of having a high risk of inherited cancer. Following are some:


  1. Cases of rare or very uncommon cancers in family such as kidney cancer.
  2. Early onset of cancer in family, for example, a 20 year old male with colon cancer.
  3. Two or more types of cancers in the same person such as a woman with breast and ovarian cancers.
  4. Cancers that affect a pair of organs, for example, a man with kidney cancer in both kidneys.
  5. Two or more cases of childhood cancers in siblings such as a brother with childhood sarcoma and a sister with childhood retinoblastoma.