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10 Risk Factors for Cancer
Dr Vijay Anand P Reddy
What is cancer?
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases.

There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start - for example, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer; cancer that begins in basal cells of the skin is called basal cell carcinoma.
Cancer types can be grouped into broader categories:
  • Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.
  • Sarcoma: Cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.
  • Leukemia: Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood.
  • Lymphoma and myeloma: Cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system.
  • Central nervous system cancers: Cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
All cancers begin in cells. To understand cancer, it’s helpful to know what happens when normal cells become cancer cells. The genetic material (DNA) of a cell can become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. When this happens, cells do not die when they should, and new cells form when the body does not need them. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor.
Not all tumors are cancerous; tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors aren’t cancerous. They can often be removed, and, in most cases, they do not come back. Cells in benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous.

Cells in these tumors can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. Some cancers do not form tumors. For example, leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood.
What are the risk factors for cancer?
1. Growing older
The most important risk factor for cancer is growing older. Most cancers occur in people over the age of 65. But people of all ages, including children, can get cancer, too.
2. Tobacco
Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death. Using tobacco products or regularly being around tobacco smoke (environmental or secondhand smoke) increases the risk of cancer of the lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, bladder, kidney, throat, stomach, pancreas, or cervix. Smokers are also more likely to develop acute myeloid leukemia (cancer that starts in blood cells). People who use tobacco (snuff or chewing tobacco) are at an increased risk of cancer of the mouth. Quitting is important for anyone who uses tobacco, even people who have used it for many years.

3. Alcohol
Having more than two drinks each day for many years may increase the chance of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, liver, and breast. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol that a person drinks. For most of these cancers, the risk is higher for a drinker who uses tobacco. Drinking in moderation means no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.
 
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