With the knowledge we have about oncogenes, it is possible to tell exactly who will get cancer?

That question is difficult to answer, especially since many factors are involved in the development of the disease. But there are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of getting cancer.

One of them is age. In general, the older you are, the greater your chances of getting cancer. While cancer may occur in children, 75 percent of cases strike the elderly, namely, those who are 50 years old and above.

If you have a family history of cancer, you’re also more likely to have the disease. If your mother or sister had breast cancer, for instance, chances are you will suffer the same fate later.

"Hereditary factors result in a higher susceptibility of an individual to acquire specific cancers. There is, however, still no practical method that can be used for large scale testing, and it would be safer to assume that everyone is susceptible, particularly those with a family history of cancer," said Drs. Adriano V. Laudico, Divina B. Esteban, Corazon A. Ngelangel, and Lilia M. Reyes in the “Cancer Facts and Estimates.”

Still, not all cancer risk factors are impossible to control. The ones you can avoid to lessen your susceptibility to the disease are smoking, sun exposure, alcohol consumption, poor eating habits (such as a diet high in fat and low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals), hepatitis B, and radiation exposure.

"The rapid increase in cancer rates during this century has been blamed largely on the environment. Polluted air and water, food additives and colorings, and changes in diet from 'natural' to 'processed' foods all have been implicated as possible causes (of cancer). Cigarette smoking has been shown conclusively to be a cause of lung and other related cancers. If you wish to reduce your risk of getting cancer, think about changing those factors that are within your control, such as diet and tobacco use," said the editors of Consumer Guide's “Family Health & Medical Guide.”

But even if you follow the above rules, that won't give you absolute protection against cancer since oncogenes and the above risk factors are just one part of the big picture that is cancer. Even those who are exposed to cancer-causing agents won't necessarily develop the disease. Why this is so remains a mystery.

"Why cancer develops in some people who are exposed to potentially cancer-causing agents but not in others is not fully known. But we do know that most cancers develop slowly. It may be five to 40 years after exposure to a cancer-causing agent before there is evidence of the disease,” said Dr. David E. Larson, editor-in-chief of the “Mayo Clinic Family Health Book.”

“Cancer of the lung, for example, may not appear until 25 years or more after sustained exposure to tobacco smoke. This long delay between exposure and development of the disease may partly explain why so many people ignore the warnings associated with smoking," Larson added. (Next: Warning signs of cancer.)

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Author's Bio: 

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine www.HealthLinesNews.com.