Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. One in three women
and one in two men will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their life.
Prevention, screening, and treatment options are available for most types of cancer and
their use and advancements in each have decreased death rates due to cancer.
What Is Known
Cancer generally develops over several years and has many causes. Several factors both
inside and outside the body contribute to the development of cancer. Some of these factors
include genetics, tobacco use, diet, weight, physical inactivity, and excessive sunlight
exposure. Other factors include exposure to chemicals that may be present in food, air,
or water such as asbestos, benzene, and arsenic.
Who Is at Risk
Nobody is immune from getting cancer. Even though scientific studies have shown that
specific factors increase the risk for cancer, sometimes people who have no risk factors
still develop cancer and people who have many risk factors do not develop cancer. The
following list contains common cancer risk factors. It is important to remember that
some of these are modifiable and some are not:
Older age; the risk of developing cancer increases with age
Race and ethnicity; people of certain races and ethnic
background are at higher risk for certain types of cancer
Certain environmental exposures
Genetics and family history
Certain medical conditions/diseases such as a weak immune system,
diabetes, Crohn's disease, or human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
How To Reduce Risk
There are many ways to reduce your risk for cancer. Following these guidelines will not only
reduce your risk for cancer, but improve your general health as well:
Maintain a healthy weight
Do not smoke; if you already smoke, look for ways to quit
If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
Receive proper immunizations; certain infectious diseases like the human
papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B and C could lead to cancer later in life
Protect your skin from the sun; wear proper sun-protection clothing
and use plenty of sunscreen when you are outside
Limit your exposure to environmental risk factors,
such as asbestos, radon, arsenic, and benzene
Get regular medical check-ups, including cancer screening
tests like mammography, Pap test, and colonoscopy. Early
detection of cancer significantly improves the chances
of a complete recovery.
How It's Tracked
Cancer data come from several sources:
Screening: The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance
System (BRFSS) monitors the use of preventive screening for a variety of cancer types
such as mammography to detect breast cancer, Pap tests for cervical cancer, colonoscopy for
colorectal cancer, and PSA tests for prostate cancer.
Incidence, stage at diagnosis, and survivorship: State
cancer registries collect detailed information about cancer patients and the treatments
they receive, which makes the monitoring of trends in incidence and mortality as well as the
evaluation of prevention and control measures possible.
Mortality: Death certificates are a
fundamental source of demographic, geographic, and cause-of-death information. They make it
possible to track every death in the nation due to cancer. Deaths are reported as being due to
cancer when the cancer was the underlying cause of death.