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​​​​​The vast majority of cancers – as many as 80% -- are considered sporadic, or without a clear genetic predisposition. For some reason, normal genes begin to mutate (change), multiplying rapidly and becoming malignant.​Researchers believe several environmental influences that may cause these gene mutations to occur. In fact, a large number of cancers are preventable because most of these factors can be controlled with healthy lifestyle choices.  ​​​Environmental​ causes of cancer can include:​​

  • Age - Cancer occurs most frequently in people aged 50 or older.​
  • Diet - High-fat, high-cholesterol diets are proven risk factors for several types of cancer, particularly colon cancer.​
  • Obesity - Research indicates obesity may be a contributing factor to some cancers, although no clear link has been established as yet.​
  • ​​Smoking - Smoking of tobacco greatly boosts the risk of lung cancer, even among non-smokers forced to inhale secondhand smoke.  Other tobacco products, including pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, are linked to mouth, tongue and throat cancers.
  • Long-term exposure to chemicals​
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation​
  • Harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun - UV light has been linked directly to the formation of melanoma and other skin cancers.​
  • Some viruses - including Hepatitis B and C, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), have been associated with increased cancer risk​
  • Immune system diseases such as AIDS - Some immune-system diseases can make the body more susceptible to cancer.​

​Most of the remaining 20 percent of cancers are hereditary, meaning the abnormal gene responsible for causing the cancer is passed from parent to child, posing a greater risk for that type of cancer in all descendants of the family. It is important to note, however, that carrying a cancer-causing gene does not mean you will automatically develop cancer​.​