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.
Smoking and Alcohol
Smoking can cause all different kinds of cancer, especially lung cancer. Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the U.S. and 90 percent of cases in men are caused by smoking. Alcohol also raises the risk of several types of cancer, with research suggesting that ethanol is the culprit. So the stronger a drink is, the more it increases your cancer risk. Smoking and drinking combined have an especially detrimental effect, possibly because alcohol makes it easier for tobacco chemicals to enter cells and harder for DNA to repair itself from the tobacco damage.
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