It is important for the public to get an idea about situations that can predispose them to cancer as some of them are avoidable or modifiable. Factors that predispose individuals to medical conditions are called risk factors. The risk factors that are commonly incriminated include smoking, consumption of alcohol, HIV& AIDS infections and excessive exposure to sunlight. Some cancers are known be caused by more than one risk factor (multi-factorial). Situations where a person may be at a higher risk of developing cancer can be classified under four broad groups, as given below. Behavioural risk factors: These are things that you do which may lead to the development of cancer. These include smoking, drinking alcohol; chewing betel, tobacco or areca nut; eating unhealthy foods, consumptions of certain hormones, exposure to excessive UV light using ‘tanning beds’, being overweight and not taking enough exercise. Environmental risk factors: These include situations such as infections and exposure to toxins, chemicals, radiation, second-hand smoke or pollutants such as asbestos. Hereditary (genetic) risk factors: If there is a history cancer of the breast in a female, ovary, endometrium (lining of the womb), colon (large bowel), rectum (the back passage) and the prostate gland in the immediate family, the risk of developing that particular cancer is high for that individual. Biological risk factors: These include age, race, gender and skin colour. Prepared by Professor P L Ariyananda
Professor P L Ariyananda MBBS (Cey.), MD (Col.), FRCP (Lond.), DCH (Cey.) Professor in Internal Medicine, International Medical University, Malaysia Emeritus Professor in Medicine, University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka Adjunct Professor, Duke Global health Institute, Duke University, NC, USA Professor Ariyananda has a special interest in medical education, medical toxicology and in respiratory medicine. He has over seventy publications in medical literature in the form of published abstracts and journal articles at both national and international level. He has authored a book in ‘Pictures in Tropical Medicine’ and co-authored a book in ‘Medical Emergencies’ for medical undergraduates and junior doctors.