General cancer information

Cancer risk

General cancer information

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Even if you have already been treated for cancer, reducing your risk factors may lower the chance of your cancer coming back.

You might also want to talk to your family members about reducing their cancer risk.

What are risk factors?

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting cancer. 

Having a risk factor doesn't mean you will definitely develop cancer but it means you are more likely to get it than someone without the risk factor. For example, people who smoke cigarettes are much more likely to get lung cancer than those who don’t.

Types of risk factors

Some risk factors can’t be changed, like your age or family background. Others risk factors are called lifestyle risk factors. These are factors that you can change.

Risk factors that can’t be changed

  • age – many cancers are more common as people get older
  • sex – some cancers only affect one sex or are a lot more common in one sex
  • family history – some families have a faulty gene that increases the risk of some cancers, and can be passed from parents to children.

 Lifestyle risk factors

  • smoking
  • drinking alcohol 
  • exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation 
  • infections from some viruses and other organisms, e.g. the human papilloma virus (HPV) 
  • being overweight or obese 
  • lack of exercise or an unhealthy diet.

Reducing your cancer risk

Improving your lifestyle is an important way to lower your chance of developing cancer. Taking care of yourself in this way can also have other positive effects on your health.

Things you can do include:

  • eating a healthy, well balanced diet
  • staying active and exercising regularly
  • don’t smoke
  • limiting how much alcohol you drink
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • protecting your skin from too much sun.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

My notes: