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Survivorship: During and After Treatment

Second Cancer Risks Related to Lifestyle and Environment

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Although it's not possible to predict who might get a second cancer, certain lifestyle behaviors or habits can put a person at higher risk for some second cancers. Studies continue to look at the links between genetics, lifestyle habits, and known cancer-causing agents.

For some cancers, it's not clear if lifestyle may play a role in their development. For others, the cancer can be linked to things considered to be modifiable risk factors, or things that can potentially be changed to help lower cancer risk. In fact, more than 40% of cancer cases and about 45% of cancer deaths in the US are attributed to potentially modifiable risk factors. These risk factors include:

Exposure to some carcinogens in the environment or workplace (radon, asbestos, secondhand smoke) can also put a person at higher risk for cancer.

Sometimes development of a second cancer is linked to the same lifestyle habit as a first cancer. For example, smoking is linked to an increased risk for bladder cancer. People who have had bladder cancer have an increased risk of some other cancers linked to smoking, such as cancers of the lung, oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, cervix, kidney, bladder, stomach, colon and rectum, liver, and myeloid leukemia.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (NIH). Second primary cancers. Accessed at on September 19, 2019.

Fung C, Bhatia S, Allan JM, et al. Second cancers. In DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019:2155-2173.

Rowland, JH, Mollica, M, Kent EE. Survivorship. In Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:732-740.

Last Revised: February 1, 2020

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