Risk factors


Whether smoked or chewed, tobacco contains harmful chemicals which put the user at a heightened risk of developing numerous cancers. It is never too late to stop smoking, and if you have been diagnosed with cancer it is recommended that you stop as soon as possible. You may not find it easy to stop, but you can find free support through your GP or speak to your pharmacist about smoking cessation tools.


Excessive drinking can also lead to increased chances of throat cancers, amongst others. The NHS recommends that men limit themselves to 21 units per week, while the recommended limit for women is 14 units per week. If you think you need help reducing your alcohol intake, you can find more information and support from your GP.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is increasingly recognised as a cause of head and neck cancer. While already known as the leading cause of cervical cancer in females, recent studies have shown a link between HPV and the development of throat cancers, most prominently in males. Please visit our HPV pages for more information on this virus and its link to cancer.


Cancer has been linked to poor dietery habits. Your body needs a balanced diet with plenty of protein, vitamins, zinc and iron. Check out our Nutrition section and ensure that you are giving your body everything it needs to fend off or fight cancer. If you are currently undergoing treatment and finding eating a challenge, this section contains links to supplements and diet advice for patients. 

Poor Dental Hygiene

Not taking good care of your teeth increases the chance of cancers developing in the mouth and local area. Your dentist does not only help maintain your dental hygeine, they may also be the one to spot early warning signs of cancer, so it is important to visit them regularly.

External Agents

Exposure to external factors may increase your risks of developing cancer. Cancer-causing agents such as radiation or workplace chemicals are well-known contributors, but things like flour dust, solvent fumes, nickel dust and asbestos can also increase your risk of developing some cancers.

Genetic Disposition

Unfortunately, some people are genetically more likely to develop cancer, with little to no way of reducing the risk. This is particularly true of thyroid cancer. What is important, however, is that people with a family history of these diseases keep a look out for early warning signs or ask to be tested for the mutated genes that can lead to cancer. 


If your BMI (Body Mass Index) is above the recommended limit, you will be at increased risk of developing cancer. Help and support is available from your GP if you have difficulty with healthy eating, fitness or weight loss.

Do you have a question we haven't answered here? Our team of cancer experts are standing by.

Read more

Want to make a long-lasting difference? Help us get straight to the people at the top.

Read more