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The increased risk of a secondary cancer-meaning, a cancer that starts in a different organ than the original-might be partly due to the same risk factors that contributed to the first one, says study author Nicholas Donin, M.D.
One big one: tobacco smoke.
Take bladder cancer, for example. People who had bladder cancer were the most likely of all cancer patients to develop a secondary malignancy-and in 1 out of 4 cases, it was lung cancer.
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That’s probably because cigarette smoke contributes to the development of both cancers, says Dr. Donin. So the same exposure that sparked the development of your bladder cancer could fuel the growth of lung cancer, too-especially if you didn’t quit smoking after your initial diagnosis.
Obesity is another major risk factor, he says. In fact, Your Risk Of 10 Types Of Cancer Dramatically Increases If You Are Overweight.
It’s also possible that cancer survivors just receive more frequent medical follow-up and screenings than the general population, so a secondary cancer is more likely to be detected, Dr. Donin says.
If you have a prior history of cancer, ask your doctor if there are any additional screenings he or she would recommend.
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Screenings for cancers of the colon and the lung have been shown to save lives for those at risk, Dr. Donin says.
Work on getting your lifestyle habits under control, too. Losing weight and quitting smoking can lower your risk of being diagnosed with a second cancer, he says. Even dropping 5 percent of your weight can be protective, as we previously reported.