Cancer Risk Factors




With more and more people being diagnosed with cancer each year, preventative care is extremely important. Below, you will find preventative measures for various types of cancers, including screening recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is a great starting point. There is a search feature that allows visitors to search for keywords. Just type in the type of cancer you’d like more information on, and the website will bring up information about the condition, including risk factors, symptoms, prevention methods and other relevant data. The National Cancer Institute is another great resource.

Lung Cancer

Risk factors: include smoking and 2nd hand smoke.

Screening recommendations

The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening in adults between the ages of 55 and 80 who have a history of smocking 30 packs per year and still smoke, or have quit smoking within the last 15 years. Screening uis done with a low-dose computed tomography. Please visit USPSTF for more information.

Breast Cancer

Risk factors: gender, aging, genetics, not having children or having the first child after the age of 30, birth control, hormone therapy, not breastfeeding, drinking alcohol, obesity and reduced physical activity. (Reference:

Screening recommendations

Women over the age of 40 are recommended to have yearly mammograms, unless otherwise indicated by the doctor.

Clinical breast exams should be conducted every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and once a year for women over 40.

Women should conduct self-exams on a regular basis starting in their 20s.

The USPSTF recommends against using medications, such as tamoxifen and raloxifen, in women with low-risk.

The USPSTF also recommends that women with family history receive a screening for BCRA1 and BCRA2, genes that increase the potential of harmful mutation of cancer cells. Women with positive results are advised to receive genetic counseling. The USPSTF recommends against testing for women without family history of breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society has a highly informative website on early prevention.

U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF): Breast cancer risk reduction

Skin Cancer

Risk factors: excessive exposure to sunlight, radiation, tanning booths, irregular growths and precancerous lesions.

Screening recommendations

The USPSTS states that there isn’t enough evidence to prove that whole-body skin examinations facilitate early detection of skin cancer.

The same website illustrates studies and other supporting documents to support their statement.

The CDC recommends that people avoid tannings, wear sunscreen, stay in shade when outdoors, wear a hats and sunglasses to avoid direct sunlight.

Cervical Cancer

Risk factors: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), smoking, HIV, birth control, given birth to three or more children, multiple sexual partners – per the CDC.

Screening recommendations

Yearly PAP tests for women between ages 21 and 65.

HPV test, especially in women over 30.

Visit the CDC for more information about screening for cervical cancer.

Prostate cancer

Risk factors: aging, family history and race

Screening recommendations

Screening is recommended by the American Cancer Society for men that age 50 or older after discussing advantages and disadvantages with the doctor. The National Cancer Institute and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend that patients ought to make their own decision. Prostate cancer screening finds conditions that are not cancer, and this can lead to unnecessary further testing.  These screenings can detect slow growing cancer whose treatments may be worse than the actual disease. These treatments can cause impotence and incontinence. It is important to know that some prostate cancers do not shorten a man’s life, and patients should discuss screening options with their doctors. For more information, please visit American Family Physicians (AFP).

Colorectal cancer (colon cancer)

Risk factors: Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, family history, genetics, lack of physical activity, low-fiber diet, low fruit and veggie intake, alcohol, being overweight or obese, tobacco use (CDC).

Screening Recommendations

The USPSTF recommends screening for adults between 50 and 75 years of age, but does not recommend screenings for patients between the ages of 76 and 85 with exceptions for high risk individuals, and the USPSTF does not recommend any screening for adults aged 85 or older.

Research shows that curative resection for colon cancer improves survival. For information on this research, visit The BMJ.

Endometrial Cancer

Risk factors: estrogen, tamoxifen, genetical factors, being overweight or obese.


Taking medication that combines estrogen and progestin, as well as pregnancy and breastfeeding, physical activity and a healthy diet can help prevent endometrial cancer.

There is information available, from the National Cancer Institute, regarding clinical trials that have been conducted on endometrial cancer.

For more information on this type of cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute.


As mentioned initially, the CDC and the National Cancer Institute, along with USPSTF and AFP, provide valuable information about cancer. If you have any additional questions, utilize the above links. As always, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider with any concerns you may have.

Eric Vanzura