What doesn't cause cancer

Causes and Risk Factors for Cancer


Cancer diseases in humans have always been known. For some forms of cancer, the risk of developing the disease has decreased over time, and for others it has increased. This is related, among other things, to industrialization and the prosperity of our society and the associated risk factors such as smoking, unhealthy diet, environmental pollution or carcinogenic substances in the workplace.

The scientists are constantly following the similarities in the medical histories and the way of life of cancer patients in order to come to the conclusion: If you are exposed to this or that risk factor, the risk increases Likelihood of illness from this or that malignant tumor disease.

The individual risk of falling ill can never be predicted because genetic factors also play a major role in the development of cancer. However, by reducing the known risk factors, anyone can try to reduce the likelihood of developing this disease low as possible to keep.


Smoking is highly carcinogenic © Momentum 2

Risk factors for cancer

The development of a cancerous disease is usually not based on a single cause, but on a network of various factors. Of the avoidable risk factors is that (cigarette)Smoke, which causes 25-30 percent of all cancer deaths, is of paramount importance.

A similarly large, less precisely assessable proportion of all cancer deaths of around 20-40 percent is likely to arise wrong diets such as general overeating, too high a proportion of animal fat and an insufficient proportion of certain vitamins, minerals and indigestible fibers from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Other risk factors for developing certain cancers are

  • Infections
  • genetic factors
  • increased consumption of alcohol
  • Workplace exposures
  • Influences from the environment, such as
    • Exposure to sunlight
    • Indoor radon
    • Secondhand smoke.

Cancer risk factor tobacco smoke

Round a third of all cancers in developed countries is estimated to be due to tobacco use. The relationship between smoking and lung cancer is clearest: in around 90 percent of men and up to 80 percent of women with lung cancer, this is due to smoking cigarettes.

40 to 60 percent of cancers of the larynx, oral cavity and esophagus are also associated with smoking alone or with the combination of tobacco and alcohol. There are also connections with the occurrence of bladder, pancreas, kidney, stomach and cervical cancers. There is also evidence that smoking also promotes the development of chronic myeloid leukemia.

Whether malignant tumors develop as a result of smoking depends on various factors, in particular the number of cigarettes smoked and the length of the “smoking career”. The earlier in life you start smoking, the higher the risk of cancer. Smokers get sick compared to non-smokers eight times more likely to have lung cancer, and in Germany several hundred people die every year from cigarette consumption by their fellow human beings - through passive smoking.

Cancer Risk Factor Genetics

All cells of a tumor come from a common cell of origin, the division of which gets out of control for various reasons. The Change to evil arises from the fact that in such a cell, or in a line of its progeny, mutations accumulate which affect certain classes of genes.

Two of these classes, which only make up a small proportion of the entire cell, play a decisive role in the development of cancer: Proto-oncogenes (Cancer gene precursor) and Tumor suppressor genes (tumor suppressive genes). In a healthy form, they control the life cycle of the cell. In an altered (mutated) form, on the other hand, they are responsible for excessive growth and spread.

Most cancer-causing gene mutations arise during life, but some can be inherited. Some of these hereditary genetic changes are already known, e.g. the "breast cancer genes" BRCA 1 and 2. The known hereditary cancer genes can also be used determine through examinations. But even if they are present, it does not necessarily mean that the cancer will break out - however, the risk is increased and requires targeted monitoring.

Cancer Risk Factor Diet

Diet plays an important role in the development of various cancers. Obesity, mostly due to too much and too fatty food and a lack of exercise, increases the risk of colon cancer and in women going through menopause also the risk of breast cancer and especially cancer of the uterine lining. Obesity also makes people more susceptible to malignant diseases of the colon, kidneys and gall bladder. Obesity in childhood can already influence the risk of cancer later on.

Conversely, there is hardly any doubt that a balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables with their numerous vitamins, secondary protective substances and fiber is that Lower cancer risk can. However, the relationships are complex and the individual influencing factors cannot be clearly separated from one another. The scientific findings can be summarized as follows today:

  • Avoid being overweight and exercising regularly.
  • Eat more and more varied vegetables and fruits: at least 5 servings a day.
  • Eat fewer products that contain animal fat.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption.

The central recommendation is that 5 a day rule: Anyone who eats a portion of vegetables or fruit at least 5 times a day reduces their risk of cancer. According to previous knowledge, this applies particularly to cancers of the digestive tract and the respiratory tract. And those who eat this way usually eat less fat and are less likely to be overweight.

Regular high alcohol consumption favors the development of cancers of the upper respiratory tract and the upper digestive tract. Alcohol also promotes the development of liver, breast and colon cancer. The most dangerous is the combination of alcohol and smoking, the harmful effects of which are mutually reinforcing.

About 30 to 40 percent of all cancers According to estimates by experts, they are triggered or favored by poor nutrition, around 3% are associated with alcohol consumption.


© Syda Productions

Cancer Risk Factors Radiation Exposure, Medical Therapies, and Drugs

About 5 to 6 percent of all cancer deaths are attributed to high-energy radiation, mainly from natural and to a lesser extent from medical sources. The main role here is not played by high-voltage lines or electrical appliances in the household, but by Sun. The sun's UV radiation is risk factor number 1 for the development of Skin cancer. Not only the exposure to UV rays added over life plays a role, but also its intensity on skin that is unaccustomed to the sun.

It is particularly dangerous for children and adolescents to expose themselves to the sun without protection: Sunburns before the age of 15 increase the risk of developing melanoma in later years.

The cancer risk from electromagnetic radiation and fields cannot yet be conclusively assessed. In all likelihood they do not pose a high risk. About 1 percent of cancer cases are due to medical measures. For example, some cancer therapies - chemotherapy and radiation therapy - can cause leukemia or bladder cancer to develop in some of the patients treated. Estrogen preparations, on the other hand, can promote cancer of the uterine lining and breast.

Cancer Risk Factor Environmental Exposure and Workplace

The size of the risk factor environmental pollution and air pollutants can hardly be precisely quantified. Due to a relatively low concentration of various carcinogenic substances in the air, water and soil, around 2 percent of all cancers, especially of the lungs and bladder, are linked.

In the workplace, too, some occupational groups are exposed to increased levels of pollution, some of which are cancer-promoting. The regulations of the Occupational safety however, are strict today. Here it is crucial to comply with the protective measures applicable at the respective workplace. This can significantly reduce the risks.

Cancer risk factor reproductive behavior and sexuality

Late menopause and late first pregnancy increase the risk of breast cancer. The more children a woman has, the lower her personal risk of cancer of the uterine lining, ovaries and breasts. Early pregnancy reduces the risk of breast cancer.

Papillomaviruses are sexually transmitted. Chronic infections with certain types of these viruses are now considered to be the leading cause of cervical cancer. However, young women can be vaccinated against these HP viruses, preferably before their first sexual intercourse.

Cancer prevention is better than aftercare

Instead of fighting cancer after the onset of the disease, it makes more sense to reduce the risk of the disease in an appropriate manner. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk. When it comes to fat and meat, the motto should be: rather little. Anyone who also regularly exercises or moves vigorously has already done a lot for their personal cancer prevention. According to the current state of knowledge and the existing procedures Cancer preventable in many cases, however, the implementation of possible prophylaxis is not always feasible. It is therefore worth striving for a balance between increased preventive efforts and targeted therapy.

Without question, even medically sensible products, examinations and procedures will always contribute a small contribution to the development of cancer. Here, however, the benefit-risk principle is always in the foreground. And generally, the benefits outweigh the likelihood of developing a malignant disease. Risk groups with hereditary predisposition For example, if there is a family history of colon or breast cancer, individual prevention strategies and expert advice are required.

The European Code Against Cancer

The knowledge gained so far about the causes of cancer and how to avoid them has led to a catalog of rules of conduct that have been worked out by European experts and adopted by the European Union's "Europe against Cancer" program - the European Code against Cancer. The 2003 revised recommendations ring:

  1. Do not smoke! Smokers should quit as soon as possible. If that doesn't work, at least don't smoke in the presence of non-smokers.
  2. Avoid being overweight.
  3. Get yourself vigorous once a day.
  4. Eat more and more varied vegetables and fruits: at least five servings a day. Eat fewer products that contain animal fat.
  5. If you drink alcohol - be it beer or wine or spirits - then limit your consumption: men should not drink more than two, women only one glass a day.
  6. Avoid excessive exposure to the sun. Children and young people in particular should pay attention to sun protection. Those who are prone to sunburn should be careful with the sun for their entire life.
  7. Strictly adhere to the regulations that are intended to protect you from contact with carcinogenic substances. Follow the safety rules for handling substances that can cause cancer. Note the recommendations of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.
  8. Women should go for cervical cancer screening.
  9. Women aged 50 and over should take part in the mammography screening for the early detection of breast cancer.
  10. Men and women should take part in colonic cancer screening.
  11. Take part in hepatitis B vaccination programs.