The National Cancer Institute estimated that in 2013 there would be over 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. and over a half-million cancer-related deaths. Just about everyone knows someone who's had some kind of cancer and when it's in the family, concerns about our own risk run deep.
But predicting cancer is not easy. After all, it is not just one disease but actually a grouping of over 100 different diseases that all share the common characteristic of abnormal cell division and invasion. Fortunately, there are some ways to get an idea of your personal cancer risk. There are even fairly simple changes you can make now to significantly improve your chances of staying cancer-free, says Graham Colditz, associate director for prevention and control at Washington University's Siteman Cancer Center. "We don't have to be fatalistic that we're all going to get cancer," says Colditz. No one can guarantee you'll avoid cancer but informing yourself about the different predictors and taking health precautions is a good place to start.
According to the American Cancer Society, men have a 50-percent chance of developing cancer during their lifetime. So you likely have a family member who has had this disease. However, only about five percent of cancers are inherited. That is why there are very specific guidelines concerning when people should consider genetic testing. These include having several first-degree relatives who have had the same kinds of cancer, family members with cancer at a young age, and cancer in your family that is linked to gene mutations.
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