We often hear of the increased risk of developing cancer due to various activities, smoking, drinking, sun and other radiation exposure and so on. Everyone has an absolute risk of developing cancer, which can be changed by different behaviours which change the relative risk. For example, with a CLL diagnosis, we are at a higher relative risk of certain cancers, such as skin cancers.
'It’s all relative: how to understand cancer risk
Professor Ian Olver explains the difference between "absolute risk" – the risk of developing a cancer over a certain period of time; and "relative risk" – the risk one group of people has of developing a cancer compared to the risk of another group.
The interactive cancer map featured on The Conversation shows that the risk of bowel cancer is 10 per cent higher for men and women who have one standard alcoholic drink every day, than for those who don’t drink any alcohol.
This is known as “relative risk” and does not mean you have a 10 per cent chance of getting bowel cancer if you drink one drink per day.
As the map says, it means your risk of bowel cancer is 10 per cent higher than the risk of someone who doesn’t drink any alcohol.
Prof Olver says this 10 per cent matters not only in relation to someone else, but also in relation to the absolute risk of getting the particular cancer in the first place. If the absolute risk is small, then a 10 per cent increase still doesn’t make your chances of getting cancer very high.
“For instance, a man living in Australia has an absolute risk of 10 per cent of developing bowel cancer over his lifetime. If he drinks one beer every day and his risk of bowel cancer increases by 10 per cent, then it only goes up to 11 per cent overall – so not much higher than it was in the first place,” he says. '
The interactive cancer can be found here or via a reference from the above article: theconversation.com/interac...
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