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Cancers Related to Modifiable Risk Factors

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.

Cancers and significant associated modifiable risk factors

Cancers have many risk factors. Common risk factors include age, heredity, modifiable lifestyle behaviors, and environmental exposures. This table includes cancers associated with some common modifiable lifestyle behavioral risk factors.

Cancer Type Tobacco1 Alcohol2 Obesity3 Physical Inactivity4
Colorectal ✓ (Colon only)
Female Breast  ✓  (Post-menopausal women) ✓  (Post-menopausal women)
Oral cavity and pharynx   
Kidney and Renal Pelvis    
Stomach   ✓  (Upper stomach only) 
Corpus and Uterus, NOS  
Acute Myeloid Leukemia    
Lung, bronchus and Trachea    
Multiple Myeloma    

For more information and risk factors associated cancer incidence and mortality rate, go to


1  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Cancer and Tobacco Use. Retrieved from
2  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Alcohol and Cancer. Retrieved from 
3  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Cancer and Obesity. Retrieved from
4  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Predefined SEER*Stat Variables for Calculating the Number of Associated Cancers for Selected Risk Factors. Retrieved from