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Causes and prevention

Reduce your cancer risk

Causes and prevention

We know that preventing cancer is one of the most effective ways of creating a cancer free future.

What we do – causes and prevention | Cancer Council

We know that preventing cancer is one of the most effective ways of creating a cancer free future.

At least one in three cancer cases could be prevented and the number of cancer deaths could be reduced significantly by choosing a cancer-smart lifestyle.

Each year, more than 13,000 cancer deaths are due to smoking, sun exposure, poor diet, alcohol, inadequate exercise or being overweight.

Fortunately, there are a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your risk of cancer.

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 (UV) radiation and asbestos.

A number of cancers share risk factors:

  • two in every three deaths in current long-term smokers can be directly related to smoking
  • about 4.5% of cancers are related to alcohol use
  • many cancers occur as a direct result of dietary influences, from infectious agents or exposure to radiation (especially skin cancers from UV radiation- check for changes to any moles)
  • 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.

Woman holding her hand up to prevent friend pouring her a glass of wine.

Read more about the seven steps to reducing your cancer risk in Cancer Council's cancer prevention resources

For a more detailed analysis of cancer prevention please view the National Cancer Prevention PolicyThe policy is a comprehensive set of recommendations for national action by governments and non-government organisations, including programs and strategies to reduce the incidence of specific preventable cancer types.

Cancer Council is empowering Australians to reduce their risk and stop cancer before it starts.