Risk Factors


Factors which increase the risk of cancer
      • Tobacco chewing and smoking
      • Food and lifestyle
      • Alcohol
      • Viral infection
      • Radiation
      • Immunodeficiency and Immune suppression
Factors That May Affect the Risk of Cancer
  • Sedentary work and lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Environment-related risk factors

What is a cancer risk factor? Anything which increases the risk of developing cancer is called cancer risk factor and cancer-protective factors decrease the chance of developing cancer. Not all risk factors are avoidable. Tobacco abuse and lifestyle-related risk factors can be avoided but inherited risk factors cannot be avoided. The risk factors which can be avoided are called modifiable risk factors. They are food, lifestyle and environment-related risk factors.

Factors which increase the Risk of Cancer

Tobacco chewing and smoking

Tobacco abuse is intensely related to cancer risk. Especially cigarette smoking is top cause of multiple cancer types cause of the following types of cancer:

Factors That May Affect the Risk of Cancer
  •  Blood Cancer (Leukemia).
  •  Cervical cancer.
  •  Oesophagus cancer.
  • Lung cancer
  •  Oral Cancer.
  •  Pancreas Cancer.
  •  Renal (Kidney) Cancer.
  • Stomach Cancer.
  • Urinary Bladder Cancer.
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Smoking cessation or avoiding smoking decreases the risk of getting cancer and also dying from it. Up to 30% of all cancer deaths occur due to smoking.

Factors which decrease Cancer
  • Prevention of Lung cancer
  • Cessation of cigarette smoking


Many virus and bacteria can cause multiple cancers. They are more common in developing countries accounting for every 4th case than in developed countries where every 10th case is caused by infection. Some of the cancer-causing agents are enlisted below

  • EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus) which causes Burkitt Lymphoma.
  • Helicobacter pylori which causes stomach cancer.
  • HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) and HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) cause Liver cancer.
  • HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) causes oral and genital cancer.

There are some approved vaccines to prevent infection by these cancer-causing agents. The first one is against the Hepatitis B virus. The second one is against multiple pathogenic strains of the Human Papilloma Virus. There are multiple upcoming vaccines with ongoing research against infections that may lead to cancer


Exposure to radiation is a known risk factor for cancer. There are multiple types and sources of radiation

    •  Ultraviolet light from sun causes non melanoma skin cancers.
    • Ionizing form of radiation: from medical sources such as x-ray, computed tomography scan (CT scan) or nuclear medicine imaging. andnon medical sources such as radon gas at houses.

Ionizing radiation has been linked to blood cancer, thyroid cancer, breast cancer and soft tissue cancer called sarcomas. It has also been linked to oesophagus, stomach, colon, urinary bladder, myeloma and ovarian cancers. Diagnostic x-ray exposure increased the risk of cancer in radiology technicians and patients. Radiation exposure In children and adolescents for diagnostic imaging increases the risk of cancers that occur at an early age. During the last two decades, there are increased usage of Computed Tomography (CT) scans which increased exposure to ionizing radiation. The cancer risk is related to the number of scans and also the radiation dose used per scan.

Factors That May Affect the Risk of Cancer


The foods that you eat on a regular basis make up your diet. Diet is being studied as a risk factor for cancer. It is hard to study the effects of diet on cancer because a person’s diet includes foods that may protect against cancer and foods that may increase the risk of cancer.
It is also hard for people who take part in the studies to keep track of what they eat over a long period of time. This may explain why studies have different results about how diet affects the risk of cancer.
Some studies have shown that a diet high in fat, proteins, calories, and red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer, but other studies have not shown this.
It is not known if a diet low in fat and high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information:

      •  Breast Cancer Prevention
      • Colorectal Cancer Prevention


Studies have shown that drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of the following types of cancers:

      •  Oral cancer.
      • Esophageal cancer.
      • Breast cancer.
      • Colo rectal cancer (in men).

Drinking alcohol may also increase the risk of liver cancer and female colo rectal cancer.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information:

      •  Breast Cancer Prevention
      • Colo rectal Cancer Prevention
      • Esophageal Cancer Prevention
      • Oral Cavity, Pharyngeal, and Laryngeal Cancer Prevention
      • Liver (Hepatocellular) Cancer Prevention

Physical Activity

Studies show that people who are physically active have a lower risk of certain cancers than those who are not. It is not known if physical activity itself is the reason for this.
Studies show a strong link between physical activity and a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Some studies show that physical activity protects against postmenopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information:

      •  Breast Cancer Prevention
      • Colorectal Cancer Prevention
      • Endometrial Cancer Prevention


Studies show that obesity is linked to a higher risk of the following types of cancer:

      • Postmenopausal breast cancer.
      • Colorectal cancer.
      • Endometrial cancer
      • Esophageal cancer.
      •  Kidney cancer.
      •  Pancreatic cancer.

Some studies show that obesity is also a risk factor for cancer of the gallbladder and liver cancer.
It is not known if losing weight lowers the risk of cancers that have been linked to obesity.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information:

      • Breast Cancer Prevention
      • Colo rectal Cancer Prevention
      • Endometrial Cancer Prevention
      • Lung Cancer Prevention


There is marginally increased risk of certain types of cancer as seen in some studies.

      • Bladder cancer.
      • Breast cancer in women.
      • Colorectal cancer.
      • Endometrial cancer.
      • Liver cancer.
      • Lung cancer.
      • Oropharyngeal cancer.
      • Ovarian cancer.
      • Pancreatic cancer.

Common risk factors between cancer and diabetes are

      • Being older.
      • Being obese.
      • Smoking.
      • Not eating a healthy diet.
      • Not exercising.

Due to the common risk factors, it is difficult to ascertain the risk of cancer is due to diabetes or these risk factors. Ongoing research may elucidate the effect of diabetic medication on cancer risk.
Environmental Risk Factors

Environmental chemical agents have been found to cause cancers.

  • Air pollutants have been linked cancer which are tobacco smoke, asbestos, chemicals polluting outdoor air which cause lung cancer.
  • Water pollutants especially with arsenic can cause urinary bladder, lung and skin.

The Above mentioned Risk Factor and Causes of Cancer were explained by Dr.Chinnababu Sunkavalli, the Best

Oncologist in Hyderabad to create awareness of Cancer.

Dr.ChinnaBabu Sunkavalli, the Best Oncologist available at Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, Telangana, India to treat cancer patients, available online for International Cancer Patients with online/video appointments.


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