Smoking, Older Age Are Biggest Risk Factors For Any Cancer: Study

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Older age and a long history of smoking are two of the biggest risk factors associated with developing any type of cancer, according to a study.

Previous research listed poor diet, obesity, drinking too much alcohol, and smoking as the main factors that drive the development of cancer, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But a new study published in Cancer, a journal of American Cancer Society, revealed that the two most important risk factors associated with an absolute five-year risk of developing cancer are older age and smoking. The findings also pointed out excess body fat, family history of any cancer, and a few other factors that could help anyone determine if they would benefit from enhanced cancer screening or prevention interventions. 

“Single cancer type-specific screening recommendations are based on risk factors for that specific type of cancer. Our findings are encouraging as we are working to define subgroups in the general population who could benefit from enhanced cancer screening and prevention,” said Dr. Alpa Patel, the senior vice president of population science at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. 

For the study, the researchers analyzed two ACS prospective cohort studies, Cancer Prevention Study-II Nutrition Cohort and Cancer Prevention Study-3. These were used to identify the risk factors associated with greater than 2% absolute risk of any cancer within five years.

Among the 429,991 participants in the United States with no prior personal history of cancer, 15,226 invasive cancers got diagnosed within five years of enrollment. The multivariable-adjusted relative risk of any cancer was strongest for current smokers than those who never smoked.

“As we consider the possibility that future tests may be able to identify several types of cancer, we need to begin understanding who is most at risk for developing any type of cancer. These types of data are not widely available, but necessary to inform future screening options, such as blood-based multi-cancer early detection tests that could help save lives,” concluded Patel.

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