National Cancer Institute
Science Behind the News Understanding Cancer
A line graph showing the incidence of breast cancer and colon cancer according to age.

Cancer Risk and Aging

Because cancer usually requires a number of mutations, the chances of developing cancer increase as a person gets older because more time has been available for mutations to accumulate. For example, a person 75 years old is a thousand times more likely to develop and die of colon cancer than a person 25 years old. Because people are living longer today than they did 50 or 100 years ago, they have a longer exposure time to the factors that may start gene changes that lead to cancer.

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