What puts you at risk

Things that increase your chance of developing cancer are called risk factors.

You may have some risk factors that you cannot change. Examples of risk factors you cannot change are:

  • Your age. Getting older increases your risk of developing cancer.
  • Your family history.  Having family members with cancer may mean you are at a higher risk of developing cancer.
  • Your environment. Being exposed to harmful substances may increase your risk of development cancer.

If you have risk factors you cannot change, your primary care provider can help you understand how to best monitor your health.  Checking for cancer, or cancer screening, can detect cancer at an early stage, when it is most easily treated.

You may also have some risk factors that you can change. Examples of risk factors you can change are:

  • Your exercise routine.  
  • Your diet and nutrition.  
  • Your weight.
  • Your habits, like smoking, tanning, or moderate to heavy drinking.

If you have risk factors you can change, you can improve your lifestyle or behavior to reduce your risk of developing cancer. 

Having many risk factors does not guarantee that you will develop cancer.  But reducing or eliminating your risk factors can greatly improve your overall health and help prevent cancer.

You can learn more about risk factors by using the related resources on the right side of this page.