Have you ever wondered if you could possibly develop cancer? It often catches people off-guard, but there are several methods that medical science has discovered to determine an individual’s risk of getting this daunting disease. Even though it seems like a grim topic, there are several benefits to discussing your personal risk of cancer with your doctor. Knowing this probability could lead you to make healthy choices earlier in life, prepare for possible treatments, and guide your family on making difficult decisions in case you are ever unable to make them yourself. Read on to learn about the various risk factors for cancer.
Your Family Cancer History
One of the first things that a doctor will ask new patients about is their family medical history, including if any of their older family members have developed or passed away from any type of cancer. Several types of cancer are caused by gene mutations, which can be hereditary. In breast cancer, for example, having an immediate family member (mother, sister, or daughter) who has had breast cancer increases an individual’s chance of developing breast cancer, themselves. Several other types of cancers are also hereditary. If anyone in your family has had cancer, you will want to consult early on with a doctor to learn your risk level, and the measures you can take to reduce it. There are several genetic tests now available to learn if you carry the gene mutations that can cause certain types of cancer.
Environmental Factors of Cancer
Sometimes cancer isn’t passed down from your family, but caused by something in our environment that affects our body. The most well-known example of this is smoking. Smoking introduces harmful substances to our lungs and causes damage, which alters the cells. These harmful substances are called carcinogens. Other environmental causes of cancer could be polluted air and drinking water, ultraviolet rays from sunlight, and exposures to household and workplace chemicals. But just because you are exposed to these environmental factors does not mean that you will automatically develop cancer, and most countries highly regulate the use of carcinogenic chemicals in their industrial processes and household goods. It is best to be aware of the possible exposures you do have in your environment, and discuss best methods to avoid them with your doctor.
Previous Medical Conditions
Medical conditions that you’ve encountered earlier in life may be an indication of increased cancer risk as you age. The human papillomavirus (HPV), for example, can lead to cervical cancer, and people who are prone to developing harmless, benign tumors should be wary of their potential to become cancerous, also known as “malignant,” later on. Obesity is another medical condition that contributes to a wide range of different types of cancer.
Consult With Your Doctor To Learn Your Cancer Risk
If you are interested in learning if you are high-risk for cancer, you should set an appointment with your doctor. They will discuss the various risk factors that contribute to the possibility of you receiving a cancer diagnosis down the road. Depending on your discussion, they may refer you to specialists that can perform further tests to determine how these risk factors contribute to this possibility. Even if you find out that your risk of cancer is high, it will help you make more informed decisions about your health for years to come.