The big “C”—cancer—affects a wide swath of the population and is one of the leading causes of death. In fact, statistics show that one out of three women is likely to be affected by cancer considering the risk factors. Cancer can result from family history or the surrounding environment; it is often caused by a person’s particular lifestyle. Of these, family history is not within our control and even the surrounding environment can be controlled to only a certain extent. However, our lifestyle is completely under our control, including the choices we make, such as smoking, diet and eating habits, weight gain, physical exercise and activity or the lack of it. Being aware of the risks and using appropriate preventative measures goes a long way in reducing the chances of developing cancer.


The top cancers that affect women are elaborated upon here along with associated risk factors, which can often be addressed in time to lower the chances of developing cancer.


Cancers that affect women and their risk factors


Breast cancer

In years past, statistics have shown that one in eight women suffer from breast cancer. Since those studies were conducted, the number of affected women has been reduced thanks to prevention and treatment. However, the number of cases per year is still quite high, making it the most common cancer, second only to skin cancer.

The risk factors to keep in mind are:

  • Women 55 years of age and older are more susceptible, thus mammography for women after the age of 45 is highly recommended.
  • The risk is greater for those with a family history (daughter, mother, or sister) of breast cancer.
  • White women are at greater risk compared to African American women; however, the tumors grow faster in African Americans.
  • Those with dense breast tissue, a history of radiation treatment to the breast, postmenopausal hormone therapy, and treatment with the drug diethylstilbestrol are at risk.
  • Those having a greater number of menstrual periods, or a first pregnancy after the age of 30, or no pregnancies, are at higher risk of breast cancers. Taking birth control pills or not breastfeeding also increases the risk.
  • Lack of exercise, being obese, and excessive drinking of alcohol also increases the chances of cancer.


Bronchus and lung cancer

Deaths due to lung cancer are alarmingly high, but preventable by taking into consideration the risks:

  • Smoking or even inhaling secondhand smoke has severe repercussions and increases the chances of developing lung cancer drastically.
  • Exposure to harmful elements, such as soot, tar, arsenic, and radon gas increases the chances of developing lung cancer.
  • Lifestyle choices, such as improper diet, lack of exercise, and alcohol consumption all increase the risk.


Rectal and colon cancer

This cancer is completely preventable if detected early because the tumor cells take 10–15 years to grow. That is why regular colonoscopies and checking after a certain age are recommended. Consumption of dairy products has also been found to lower the risks. Other risk factors to consider are:

  • Drinking heavily
  • Smoking
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a diet that is high in fat and low in fiber with fewer fruits and vegetables and more meat
  • Family history of inflammatory bowel, polyps, or colorectal cancer