CANCER is a word that many have heard severally, hence are now familiar with. Many also die from one form of it or another.

In this post, I will be showing you what causes these cancers.

First, let us explore some terms used:

There is a term known as NEOPLASIA (or NEOPLASM), which means “new growth”. It is used interchangeably with the word TUMOR.
Tumors are classified into BENIGN and MALIGNANT.
Benign tumors stay where they originate from and typically do not spread to other sites/ tissues.
Malignant tumors destroy structures near their site/ tissue of origin, and spread to distant tissues to cause death. These malignant tumors are referred to as CANCERS.

Back to the question – what causes cancers?

The exact cause of cancer is UNKNOWN.

However, there are some factors that increase the risk of developing cancers.

Let me give you a general overview which is by no means exhaustive. More specific factors would be mentioned when we look at some individual cancer entities.

Common cancers in men include:
• Prostate
• Lungs
• Colon/ rectum

Common cancers in women include:
• Breast
• Cervical
• Lungs, etc.

Genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of cancer, although environmental influences appear to be the dominant risk factors for most cancers.

Environmental factors such as:

  1. Infectious agents: such as Human papilloma virus (HPV) which is spread through sexual contact and responsible for many cervical cancer cases and cancers of the head and neck.
  2. Smoking: especially of cigarettes, has been implicated in cancer of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, bladder and lung cancer deaths.
  3. Alcohol consumption: increases the risk of liver cancer.
  4. Diet: increased consumption of smoked food increases the risk of stomach cancer.
  5. Obesity: Studies have found that it is associated with increased cancer risk and death.
  6. Sexual behaviour: Early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, increase the risk of prostate cancer.
  7. Age : More cancers occur after the age of 50 years, although it can occur in younger people. Some cancers affect children, like those of the kidneys, eyes, brain, etc.
  8. Immunodeficiency state: like that caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), increases the risk of some cancers.

Some cancers run in the family and direct relations are even more at risk. Such cancers include breast, ovarian, endometrial(womb), and so on.


It cannot be overemphasized that there is an interplay of some of these factors. Hence, while some cancers are preventable by modifying the risk factors, others that are genetic may not necessarily be as straightforward.

However, routine checks such as pap smear, mammogram, for early detection of cervical and breast cancers respectively, may help in early detection and prompt treatment which would ultimately modify the survival rate.


In subsequent posts , we shall look at the causes of prostate, breast and cervical cancers.

Stay healthy, stay safe.

Got questions? Consult DoctorKK right here.

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