Cancer Council Australia
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Causes of cancer



We do not know all of the risks and causes of cancer. However, there are a number of chemical, physical and biological agents that have been shown to trigger the mistakes in the cell blueprint that cause cancer. These are called carcinogens and include tobacco, ultraviolet radiation and asbestos.

A number of cancers share risk factors:

  • one in nine cancers, and one in five cancer deaths, are due to smoking
  • about 3% of cancers are related to alcohol consumption
  • many cancers occur as a direct result of dietary influences, from infectious agents or exposure to radiation (especially skin cancers from ultraviolet radiation)
  • some cancers result from inherited ‘faulty’ genes
  • cancer is NOT caused by injury or stress.

It is important to note that not all cancers are associated to the risk factors mentioned above. Cancer can sometimes develop without any specific causes.

For further information:

  • Head to our iheard site to read our evidence based answers to popular myths and claims about cancer risks, prevention, screening and treatment.

This page was last updated on: Friday, August 3, 2012