More than 1 in 3 people in the UK will get cancer during their lives. Everyone has a certain risk of developing cancer. A combination of genes, lifestyle and environment can affect this risk.
Most of the time we don’t know exactly what causes a particular cancer. But we do know some of the risk factors for that cancer. Risk factors are things that can make you more likely to develop cancer. They include being older, smoking and being overweight.
Having a particular risk factor doesn’t mean you will definitely get cancer. Some risk factors only slightly increase the risk of developing cancer.
Usually, cancer is due to a combination of several risk factors. But some risk factors are more likely to cause cancer than others. Smoking is a good example of this. Smoking will greatly increase your risk of getting lung cancer. About 9 out of 10 people who develop lung cancer are smokers. But not everyone who smokes will develop lung cancer.
For most people, increasing age is the biggest risk factor for developing cancer. In general, people over 65 are more likely to develop cancer than younger people (those under 50).
Cancer is very common and most of us have relatives who have had cancer. People often worry that a history of cancer in their family greatly increases their risk of developing it. But fewer than 1 in 10 cancers are associated with a strong family history of cancer.