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Understanding Cancer Series

  • Posted: 01/28/2005
  • Reviewed: 09/30/2009

Slide 26

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Heredity? Behaviors? Other Factors?

In theory, differences in heredity or environmental risk factors might be responsible for the different cancer rates observed in different countries. Studies on people who have moved from one country to another suggest that exposure to risk factors for cancer varies by geographic location. For example, in Japan, the rate of colon cancer is lower, and the rate of stomach cancer is higher, than in the United States. But this difference has been found to gradually disappear in Japanese families that have moved to the United States. This suggests that the risk of developing the two kinds of cancer is not determined primarily by heredity. The change in risk for cancer for Japanese families could involve cultural, behavioral, or environmental factors predominant in one location and not in the other.

Heredity? Behaviors? Other Factors?