Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is an important process in evaluating a patient’s unique conditions in order estimate the risk that certain adverse events will happen. Risk assessment is a valuable tool for physicians in delivering a cancer prognosis or recommending the most appropriate course of treatment to their patients. In medicine, the measure of risk can be applied to a number of things, for example, the risk having a child when a woman is affected by a certain condition or disease. Risk assessment is also used to determine the risk of carrying a certain gene mutation that may lead to cancer, or for predicting medical problems or a patient’s response to certain drugs. Risk is assessed by collecting specific information on a patient including:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Personal and family medical history
  • Ethnic background
  • Lifestyle
  • Health status
  • Test results
  • Other clinical factors

While it’s usually difficult to point out definitive reasons why certain people get cancer and others do not, there are known risk factors that may heighten a person’s chance of developing cancer. Most of the risk factors for cancer have been identified in epidemiology studies (which analyze the patterns, causes, and health effects of various diseases). It’s important to note that these factors increase the risk of cancer, but do not necessarily point to the mechanism that causes the cancer to develop in the first place. Some of the most studied and suspected risk factors for cancer are:

  • Age (growing older)
  • Chemical exposure or other cancer-causing substances
  • Infectious agents
  • Radiation
  • Family history of cancer
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Immunosuppression
  • Hormones
  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Sunlight