Signs You Have a High Risk of Getting a Secondary Cancer
Some of America’s deadliest cancers end thousands of lives every year. While surviving cancer is worth celebrating, it’s also a cause for elevated concern. If you want to know how to prevent getting cancer — especially if you’ve already had it — there are a few things you can do to lower your risk. Unfortunately, there are also some things you can’t control that you also need to be aware of.
Here are the signs you’re likely to develop a secondary cancer — one that originates in one part of the body but develops in another.
1. You’ve been sick with a virus
Developing certain viral infections unfortunately increases your risk of developing a secondary cancer. For example, if you develop a hepatitis B or HIV infection, you’re at an increased risk of developing cancer, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer before.
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2. You started hormone therapy during or after menopause
Many women choose to undergo hormone therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause. Certain forms of these treatments increase your risk of developing a handful of cancers, like breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.
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3. You live with someone who smokes
Even if you don’t smoke yourself — whether you used to or not — long-term exposure to secondhand smoke increases your cancer risk. Inhaling those chemicals can disrupt the DNA in many different areas of your body, so it’s possible to develop cancer even if you haven’t touched a cigarette in years.
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4. You’re getting older
As you age, your body gets exposed to more diseases, infections, and lifestyle and environmental risk factors. Even if you’ve previously had cancer, approaching your 50s and 60s increases the odds you’ll develop the same or a different cancer anyway.
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5. Cancer runs in your family
Medical history matters, especially when assessing whether or not you’ll develop cancer (again). If one or more family members have had cancer, your chances of having it even once go up. You’re not guaranteed to have it if it’s largely genetic, but you might have to pay more attention to other risk factors that apply to you.
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6. You live with chronic inflammation
The type of chronic inflammation you experience might determine the cancer you’re most at risk of developing. People living with inflammatory bowel disease, for example, are at an increased risk of being diagnosed with colon cancer.
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7. You had cancer as a child
As time passes, more and more children live through cancer and eventually enter remission. Childhood cancer survivors are at an increased risk of developing secondary cancers, especially if they undergo certain therapies to eliminate cancer cells.
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8. You’ve previously been treated for cancer
Certain cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and certain medications, can increase your risk of developing both secondary an unrelated cancers later on. These are risks doctors, patients, and their families have to discuss in detail before any treatments begin.
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9. You don’t protect yourself from the sun
Small amounts of sun exposure are good for you. But too much, without the proper protection, can lead to cancer. Applying sunscreen at the appropriate increments isn’t always enough. Wearing the proper clothing and accessories also protects your skin from cancer-causing rays.
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10. You rarely exercise
Exercise decreases your risk of more than one type of cancer — and it’s not as hard to start doing it as it might seem. Young, middle aged, and older adults should try to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity just five days per week for the best long-term results.
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11. You eat too many cancer ‘causing’ foods
Eating certain foods doesn’t “cause” cancer. But diets high in processed foods do increase your chances of developing other health conditions, like chronic inflammation, that could eventually lead to a cancer diagnosis.
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12. You don’t eat enough cancer ‘fighting’ foods
The good news is, you don’t have to stop eating processed foods altogether if you don’t want to. But if you want to decrease your chances of developing a secondary cancer, you should try to eat more green leafy vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and fruits.
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13. You haven’t tried losing weight
Studies over decades have found a strong link between cancer and weight gain. It’s believed that nearly half of the new cancer diagnoses in the United States are related to obesity, since the condition causes so many dangerous health problems.
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14. You don’t keep tabs on your alcohol intake
A glass of wine or two in the evening isn’t the worst thing in the world. But it’s easy to go way past that cutoff, and when you do that a lot, you’re certainly not doing yourself any favors. Alcohol overuse increases your risk of more than one type of cancer, especially if you’ve already been through treatment.
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15. You still smoke
If secondhand smoke increases your chances of developing secondary cancer, holding a cigarette in your own hand definitely puts you at risk. If you know you need to quit but can’t, ask your doctor for a referral to a program that can help you. You’ll be glad you did.
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