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Glossary Term:


risk factor



anything that is related to a person’s chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Some risk factors have a direct role in causing cancer, but in other cases the risk may be due to something else that goes along with the risk factor. For example, older age is linked to higher risk of many types of cancers, but the actual cause appears to be gene mutation (change), which is more likely to occur with age. Different cancers have different risk factors. For example, unprotected exposure to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer; smoking is a risk factor for lung, mouth, throat, and other cancers. Some risk factors, such as smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person’s age, can’t be changed. See also gene, mutation.