Cancer Risk Factors Include Genetic, Occupational, and Environmental Factors and Personal Choices

Cancer risk factors vary depending on the type of cancer in question, but there are some factors that have been linked to an increased occurrence of cancer in general. Some of these risk factors are beyond the control of the individual, while others can be mitigated through certain lifestyle changes. For example, one of the most prominent – and most unavoidable – risk factors for many cancers is increased age. However, cancer can develop at any stage of life.

Other cancer risk factors that are beyond a person’s control include the presence of chronic inflammation (like ulcerative colitis), and, in some cases, a family history of cancer. Genetics play a direct role in only about 5-10 percent of cancers, and affected families will usually have a pattern of relatives who have the same types of cancer. However, certain inherited factors can make a person more likely to develop a malignancy as a result of non-genetic risk factors.

In most cases, cancers develop as a result of a combination of environmental factors and an individual’s lifestyle. Among the many cancer risk factors that can potentially be controlled are:

  • Tobacco use – All forms of tobacco have been linked to the development of cancer, and anyone using them is encouraged to stop. Doing so can help reduce the chances of developing cancer, no matter one’s age.
  • Exposure to UV rays – Limiting sun exposure, wearing protective clothing, and applying sunscreen can help people avoid excessive radiation exposure that can cause skin cancer.
  • Obesity – Carrying excess weight, particularly around the waist, has been linked to greater risks for several types of cancer.
  • Poor diet – Although no one food has been shown to directly cause or protect people from cancer development, eating more healthful foods, including those high in fiber and antioxidants, can help reduce the risks of cancer.
  • Alcohol consumption – Excessive or frequent consumption of alcoholic beverages is one of several recognized cancer risk factors, particularly when combined with tobacco use.

The presence of these cancer risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will develop cancer, only that the likelihood is higher for them and that extra precautions should be taken if unusual health changes develop. In the case of a cancer diagnosis, it is essential that the person have a timely treatment plan designed to address their specific disease and meet their particular needs.

At Tampa General Hospital, our team of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, and other cancer specialists do just that for patients with all forms of cancer. Our treatment options range from inpatient and outpatient chemotherapy and radiation therapy to minimally invasive surgical interventions, along with clinical trials and other novel therapies. 

For a physician referral or to schedule an appointment, please call (813) 844-2200.