Risk Factors

We still don’t know exactly why some people get cancer and others don’t. Certain things can increase your risk of getting cancer, but sometimes cancer can just happen.

What are Risk Factors?

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing a disease, like cancer. Some things you can’t control, like your genetics, but some things you can, like your lifestyle. 

Think of it like a lottery you don’t want to win, the more you smoke or forget to put suncream on, the more lottery tickets you buy. 

But don’t worry, there is lots of help out there if you want to have a healthier lifestyle, and ways to protect yourself to lower your risk of cancer. 

HPV & Safe Sex

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a very common virus. Anyone can get HPV, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation. You usually catch it through skin-to-skin contact, like vaginal, anal or oral sex, touching the genital area and sharing sex toys. 

It usually doesn’t cause any harm, or have any symptoms, so most people may have had HPV without knowing. But, some types of HPV can cause cancer. 

There are over 200 types of HPV, with 40 types that affect the gential area and 13 types that are linked to cancer. They are usually split into two categories: 

  • Low-risk HPV that are most of the 200 types.
  • High-risk HPV, 13 of the types that cause cancer.

So how do you reduce the risk of catching it? It is important to practice safe sex if you are having it. You can still catch HPV when using condoms or dental dams, but it does reduce your risk. It is important to also clean sex toys, especially if you are sharing them with others.

You can also get a HPV vaccine if you are eligible to do so and haven’t already had it. 

Only people with a cervix can find out if they have HPV by going for a cervical screening (or smear test). You will be invited for this before your 25th birthday with a letter through the post. 

Safe in the Sun

Not staying safe in the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer, but 86% of skin cancer is preventable, so there are things you can actively do to ensure you stay safe. 

Ultraviolet radiation (or UV) is what causes cancer. You can’t see or feel it, but not staying safe in the sun increases your exposure to it. They can affect you in water, on a windy day, through windows and on a cloudy day.

Remember, you need to wear sun cream on exposed areas everyday. Make it part of your routine! Despite what you may think, you also need suncream in the UK. 

Using a sunbed before the age of 35 increases your risk of skin cancer by 75%. Sun beds emit UV rays 10-15 times stronger than the mediterannean midday sun. That’s a lot of rays. 

It’s best to completely avoid sunbeds. You can get a nice tan, just make sure it comes in a bottle. 

Cover up in the sun too, that means a hat, sunglasses and covering your shoulders, especially on hot days.


Some things you can’t change that increase your risk of cancer, like age or genetics. But some things you can. Eating healthy and looking after your body is not only good for your mental wellbeing and physical well being now, but for your future too.

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