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The Biggest Risk Factors for Cancer: February is National Cancer Prevention Month

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by Hanson Medical Systems

This year in the United States alone, approximately 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. As researchers try to understand more about this disease every day and develop the latest treatments to save lives, one message is clear. Knowing the risk factors associated with cancer is one of the best ways to protect ourselves from this life-threatening illness. February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and there is no better time to understand the risks than now.

Family History

Some types of cancer, like breast and ovarian cancer, are more likely to run in families than others. Understanding your family’s cancer history can help you determine if you should be concerned. Consider whether multiple family members have had the same form of cancer or if one type of cancer seems prevalent across multiple generations. If you have any concerns about your family history, address them with your doctor. Genetic testing may be able to help you understand your risks.


Anyone can be diagnosed with cancer at any age, but on average, individuals 45 years old and up have the highest risks. All adults should consult with their doctor about preventative health screening services like mammograms or prostate exams. In many cases, early detection could be the difference between life and death. Check out resources like mobile health testing in your area. This valuable service can bring important preventative tests straight to you.


Tobacco products are one of the leading causes of cancer diagnoses and deaths. Not only does tobacco put your lungs at risk, your mouth, esophagus, throat, stomach, colon, and more can develop the disease too. When you quit smoking and using other tobacco products (regardless of age or how long you smoked), your risk of being diagnosed with cancer decreases and your health begins to improve immediately.

Obesity & Diet

Obesity is linked to many forms of cancer including breast, colorectal, and pancreatic. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle is the number one thing you can do for your overall health. Some foods increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer. These foods include processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and sausage, with research pointing towards barbecued, fried, and well-done meats playing a role too.

The Sun

The sun is a major source of UV radiation, and while spending time outdoors is important for our health, too much exposure can lead to skin cancer. Luckily, all it takes is a few simple steps to prevent your risks of cancer from the sun. Always wear sunscreen and full coverage clothing when spending time outdoors, protect your head and neck with a wide hat, and wear sunglasses every day.

Exposure to Cancer-Causing Substances

The National Cancer Institute has compiled a list of dangerous cancer-causing substances, some of which include:

  • Arsenic
  • Asbestos
  • Cadmium
  • Formaldehyde
  • Radon
  • Second-hand smoke
  • Soot
  • Wood dust

This list is by no means complete. You should always investigate your environment to see if exposure affects you. If so, immediately take protective measures to limit your contact.

There are countless resources for you to learn more about cancer and your individual risk factors. Community health education programs, corporate health fairs, and your doctor are all great places to start learning more. Screening for risk factors is easy, and in some cases, point of care tests can give you a quick snapshot of where your health stands. When you understand your individual risk factors for cancer, you can start taking preventative steps towards winning the fight against this devastating disease.

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