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Cofactors that Increase Cancer Risk

Many things you do increase your risk for cancer and the more risk factors you have, the greater your risk. Avoiding these risk factors after you are diagnosed with a cancer can increase your chance for a cure.

Smoking and being infected with the human wart virus (HPV) both cause fatal squamus cell cancers of the head and neck. A study from the University of Michigan shows that smokers who have an HPV-linked cancer are six times more likely to have a recurrence than those who have never smoked, and two- thirds of patients with HPV-linked tumors were current or former tobacco users (Clinical Cancer Research, February, 2010). Among those with HPV-linked tumors, six percent of those who never smoked had recurrences, compared to 19 percent of those who had smoked in the past and 35 percent of current smokers. Almost all cases of cervical cancers are caused by HPV, but only one woman of 250 infected with the HPV virus develops cervical cancer. If you are infected with HPV and smoke, you increase your chances of developing cervical cancer 15 times (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, November 2006).

Lifestyle factors that are associated with increased cancer risk (as well as heart attack risk) include: smoking, taking more than two alcoholic drinks per day, being overweight, not exercising, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, eating too much saturated fat from mammals, eating burnt food (PAHs and HCAs), lack of vitamin D, lack of sunlight, and anything that increases risk for diabetes. Other risk factors include promiscuous behavior that exposes you to hepatitis B and C viruses, human papilloma virus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), Human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus (HTLV-1), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), or Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8); working in jobs that expose you to radiation, chemicals such as asbestos, benzene, benzidine, cadmium, nickel, or vinyl chloride, certain metals, pesticides or solvents; taking certain medications and hormones; repeated exposure of your skin to excess sunlight or getting too many X rays.

Checked 9/10/10

August 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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