Identification of the two most important risk factors –

What determines cancer risk?

According to a recent study, two risk factors are of paramount importance in cancer. However, other risk factors should by no means be underestimated.

In a new study involving experts from the American Cancer Society (ACS), two prospective cohort studies were used to identify risk factors associated with the development of cancer over a five-year period.

The results were published in the English-language journal Cancer.

Cancer risk determined in more than 400,000 people

The researchers analyzed data from a total of 429,991 participants who had no history of cancer. Participants were medically monitored for the development of cancer for up to five years.

Using so-called multivariate Cox proportional risk models, hazard ratios were estimated, which allowed an individualized and consistent estimation of the absolute risk to calculate the risk of cancer according to age and identify the risk factors that multiply the absolute risk by more than two percent increase, the team explains.

Smoking and age are the main risk factors

A total of 15,226 invasive cancers were diagnosed within five years of inclusion in the study. The team reported that the multivariate adjusted relative risk of developing cancer was highest in smokers.

The study results also show that the five-year absolute risk was greater than 2% for almost everyone over the age of 50. Besides smoking, age is the second major risk factor.

The risk is also higher for some people under the age of 50. According to experts, this concerned current or former smokers who had not smoked for less than 30 years.

What's more, the five-year absolute risk was also greater than 2% for people who had not smoked for a long time and had a BMI over 25 or had a first-degree family history of cancer, the report reports. researchers.

The five-year absolute risk of developing cancer was 29% for men and 25% for women, the team said.

Cancer risk factors in men

Additionally, alcohol consumption, cancer in the family, red meat consumption, and physical inactivity were also found to be associated with an increased risk of cancer in men.

Cancer risk factors in women

In contrast, in women, body mass index (BMI), type 2 diabetes, hysterectomy, parity, cancer in family, high blood pressure, tubal ligation, and physical inactivity were associated with cancer risk.

The results should allow better early detection of cancer

“Individual cancer-specific screening recommendations are based on the risk factors of the respective cancer type. Our results are encouraging as we work to define subgroups within the general population that could benefit from improved cancer screening and prevention,” said study author Dr. Alpa Patel in a press release.

“As we consider the possibility that future tests may detect multiple types of cancer, we need to start by understanding who is most at risk of developing any type of cancer,” adds Dr. Patel

These data are not widely available, but are needed to develop future screening options, such as blood tests for early detection of several types of cancer, which could help save lives, the doctor said. (as)

Author and source information

Show now

This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Alpa V Patel, Emily Deubler, Lauren R Teras, Graham A Colditz, Cari J Lichtman, et al, Top risk factors for 5-year relative and absolute cancer risk to improve cancer screening and prevention; in: Cancer (published 08/03/2022), CancerAmerican Cancer Society: Study Shows Older Age and Smoking Most Important Risk Factors for Developing Any Cancer (published 08/03/2022), ACS

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.