- A measure of the risk of a certain event happening in one group compared to the risk of the same event happening in another group. In cancer research, relative risk is used in prospective (forward looking) studies, such as cohort studies and clinical trials. A relative risk of one means there is no difference between two groups in terms of their risk of cancer, based on whether or not they were exposed to a certain substance or factor, or how they responded to two treatments being compared. A relative risk of greater than one or of less than one usually means that being exposed to a certain substance or factor either increases (relative risk greater than one) or decreases (relative risk less than one) the risk of cancer, or that the treatments being compared do not have the same effects. Also called risk ratio.