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Most cancers are found to be caused by a mix of these risk factors—often a substance or condition—but sometimes cancer will still develop in people who don’t have any risk factors. These risk factors can either play a role in starting a cancer or helping it grow.

Some common risk factors for cancer include:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Not protecting yourself from the sun’s UV radiation
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Coming into contact with harmful chemicals at work or at home
  • Getting older

Each person’s risk factors are different, but simple changes in lifestyle can help you cut your cancer risk, with at least one third of cancers in Australia found to be preventable.

Some people will have a higher risk of developing cancer because they have certain risk factors, and others have a low risk of developing cancer. But it’s important to be aware that being categorised as either high or low risk doesn’t necessarily mean you will or won’t get cancer—why one person gets cancer, and another doesn’t isn’t always clear.

Having information about and knowing your cancer risk factors can help you when making personal health and lifestyle choices that play a part in reducing your risk of developing certain cancers.