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Cancer Causes

The Causes and Risk Factors of Cancer

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Updated June 10, 2014

Most people don't realize that cancer is preventable in many cases. Learning what causes cancer and what the risk factors are is the first step in cancer prevention. Many cancer risk factors can be avoided, thus reducing the likelihood of developing cancer.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors for Cancer?

  • Tobacco
    According to the National Cancer Institute, smoking causes 30% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. and is responsible for 87% of cases of lung cancer. Not only does it affect the lungs, it can cause kidney, pancreatic, cervical, and stomach cancers and acute myeloid leukemia. Quitting smoking immediately decreases your risk factor for cancer.

  • Physical Activity

  • Exercising at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week greatly reduces your cancer risk. Exercise like yoga, aerobics, walking and running are great activities to lower your cancer risk factor. Not only is physical activity important to preventing other diseases, it reduces the chances of becoming obese. Obesity is a major cause for many cancers. Exercising on a regular basis can prevent prostate, colon, breast, endometrial and lung cancer.

  • Genetics

  • Genetics can play a big role in cancer development. If you have a family history of cancer, such as breast cancer, taking extra precautions is vital. When cancer is genetic, a mutated gene has been passed down. Genetic tests are available for many hereditary cancers. Keep in mind that if you have a family history of cancer, it does not mean you will develop it. You only have a greater chance of developing it.

  • Environmental Factors
    The environment you are in can cause cancer.

    Exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals found in housing and industrial building materials can cause a variety of medical problems, such as mesothelioma.
    Studies have shown that people who are exposed to high amount of benzene are at risk for cancer. Benzene is a chemical found in gasoline, smoking, and pollution.

  • Unsafe Sex
    Practicing unsafe sex can increase your risk of developing a virus called HPV. HPV is a group of over 100 viruses, medically known as human papillioma virus. HPV increases your risk factor for cervical, anal, vulvar and vaginal cancer. Further studies are being conducted in HPV's role in the development of other cancers.

    There is a test available to see if you have contracted HPV. It involves scraping of cervical cells and then the sample is sent to a lab. The lab test can even identify the strain of the virus, also.

  • Sun Exposure

  • Skin cancer is caused by exposure to the UV rays of the sun. A sunburn, or a tan is actually the result of cell damage caused by the sun. Skin cancer can be prevented in most cases. Wearing sunscreen when outdoors and staying out of the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest is your best defense.

    Common Cancer Causes FAQs

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