Cancer is the name given to a complex group of diseases. These diseases are a result of mutations to the DNA inside cells, they typically occur when abnormal tissues begin to divide uncontrollably and dismantle normal and healthy bodily tissues.

While there is no single cause of cancer, there are certain lifestyle choices that can increase the risk of cancer, these include:

  • Smoking
  • Diet and activity levels
  • Sun and/or radiation
  • Viruses and/or infections

Common causes of cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, it’s estimated that around one-third of all people living in the U.S will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime[1]. While many forms of cancer occur in those with no known risk factors, there are certain aspects in our day to day lives that can potentially increase cancer risk.

  • Smoking

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that almost 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoke[2]. Smoking can cause cancer in almost any area of the body including the bladder, stomach, mouth and throat.

  • Diet and activity levels

It’s estimated that almost 18% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S are connected to “body fat, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption and/or poor nutrition”[3]. Opting for a balanced diet and daily physical exercise can help reduce cancer risk.

  • Sun and/or radiation

The majority of skin cancers are a result of overexposure to UV rays found in the sun. Excessive exposure to the sun and man-made sources of UV rays such as sunbeds have been linked to skin cancer.

  • Viruses and/or infections

Viruses, bacteria or parasites can increase the risk of cancer developing. Specific viruses linked to cancer risk include:

  • HPV
  • Hepatitis B Virus
  • Hepatitis C Virus
  • HIV
  • Kaposi Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV)

See also: HIV and Cancer: What’s the Connection?

Reducing risk of cancer

According to the World Health Organization, around 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable [4]. With the old age saying ‘prevention is the best cure’ in mind, these are just some of the steps you can take towards reducing your risk of cancer.

  • Avoid smoking

Quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer. In fact, after just 1 year of quitting smoking, your risk of lung cancer will be half of a person who is still smoking.

See also: What Happens When you Quit Smoking?

  • Practice healthy eating and remain physically active

Maintaining a healthy balanced diet and choosing to slot some physical activity into your daily schedule will not only leave you feeling more energized, it will also help in reducing your cancer risk.

  • Protect yourself from the sun

One in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime [5]. The good news is that this can be prevented by making some healthy choices when it comes to sun exposure. Avoiding midday sun, opting for the shade and wearing the correct sunscreen factor are all great places to start!

  • Get vaccinated

Viral infections such as Hepatitis B and HPV can both be protected against with a simple vaccination.

See also: Why is it Important to Check for HPV?

  • Regularly screen your health

Checking up on your general health as well as screening for certain cancers is one of the best ways to stay in the know when it comes to cancer and your own personal risk. You can do this with your doctor or from home with at-home lab tests.

LetsGetChecked has a range of at-home lab tests which can help in screening for cancer, these include:

Bowel Cancer Screening Test
PSA Test
HPV Test

Results for each test are available online within 5 days and our dedicated medical team will offer support from the beginning of the process to the very end and will answer any questions you may have.


  1. American Cancer Society. What Causes Cancer? Online:, 2020
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Cancer. Online:, 2020
  3. American Cancer Society. Diet and Physical Activity: What’s the Cancer Connection? Online:, 2020
  4. World Health Organization. Cancer Prevention. Online:
  5. World Health Organization. Radiation: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation and skin cancer. Online:, 2017