Cancer Risk and Prevention

You and your family could be the beneficiaries of important contemporary science, avoiding cancer risk factors and taking advantage of cancer prevention factors.

Cancer is the name given to a group of different diseases, all of which are characterized by the uncontrolled generation of abnormal cells which can invade healthy tissues in your body. These cells can sometimes spread through your body by traveling through your cardiovascular system or your lymphatic system. There are a great many things that leading experts in cancer care at Penn Medicine know and understand about the causes and progression of different kinds of cancer. There are also many aspects of cancer development that are not yet known and understood in the world of modern medicine.

Cancer is not caused by most of the elements you come into contact with in everyday life. It is not connected to any injury you might sustain. It is not contagious — you cannot "give" someone else cancer. It is not something that you can or should assume will become a part of your life even if you have one or more of the most common risk factors associated with cancer; in fact, most people who have some of those risk factors will never develop any kind of cancer.

Cancer Risk Factors

Scientists have identified some key cancer risk factors, which could potentially increase your chance of developing cancer. Some of them are within the realm of your control, and some are not. For those that are in fact controllable, you can increase your chances of preventing cancer by minimizing those risk factors. In general, cancer risk factors fall into one of three groups:

Personal Risk Factors

Lifestyle Risk Factors

Other Risk Factors

Cancer Risk Evaluation

At Penn you will find state-of-the-art resources for identifying the possibilities of cancer and even precancerous growth as early as possible. We provide accurate screenings for some of the most common cancers and offer medical guidance, based on your test results.

The Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at the Mariann and Robert MacDonald Women's Cancer Risk Evaluation Center, for both men and women, can identify your genetic risk of certain cancers. Our cancer team can provide all the information you need about your risk and cancer prevention.

In This Section

  • Lifestyle Risk Factors

    You have the power to control or even eliminate many cancer risk factors, and in doing so you can minimize other critical health risks as well.

  • Other Risk Factors

    Did you know that sometimes elements in the air around you can influence your chance of developing cancer? Here are some insights that may be good to know.

  • Personal Risk Factors

    Some cancer risk factors are simply a consequence of your genetics and life-cycle.

  • Risk Evaluation and Prevention

    Screening programs and genetic testing can decrease the chance of developing cancer.