There are many things that affect a person’s chances of getting cancer. Common risk factors for cancer include age, family history, certain behaviors and environmental exposures. Some cancer risk factors, such as age and family history, can’t be changed. Other cancer risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol use, can be changed and are called “modifiable risk factors”.
The table below includes a list of cancers associated with common modifiable risk factors. The new diagnoses and deaths from these cancers are available in the new cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths tables. Risk factors listed include:
Alcohol use: Alcohol is a known cause of many cancers, especially digestive tract and liver cancers. Alcohol use can be reduced through education and policy changes that decrease alcohol accessibility and consumption.
Obesity: People living with obesity are at higher risk of several cancers, even if they are physically active. Risk of obesity can be reduced through better nutrition and more physical activity. Communities that improve access to fruits and vegetables, parks and public transportation can help people reduce the risk of obesity.
Physical inactivity: People who are physically inactive are at higher risk of some cancers, even if they have a healthy weight. For most people, the most effective approach to increasing physical activity is to make activities such as walking or biking convenient, safe and attractive.
Tobacco use: Exposure to tobacco causes over 15 different kinds of cancers that affect nearly every system of the body. Tobacco use can be reduced through helping people who use tobacco to quit and policy changes that reduce the availability of tobacco in the retail environment and create smoke-free environments.