What does it mean that a chemical causes an increase in cancer risk?
State and federal agencies talk about the increased lifetime risk of getting cancer from being exposed to a certain level of a chemical. Often clean-up levels are set at an added risk of 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 1,000,000 people developing cancer because of some chemical exposure. This does not mean you will get cancer from the chemical exposure; it means you have a slightly increased chance from your baseline risk. For example, since about 500 of every 1,000 men will get cancer in their lifetime, if there was an added risk of 1 in 1,000, then 501 men of every 1,000 men will get cancer. For these 501 men, we could not tell which one may have gotten cancer from the chemical exposure or which ones got cancer because of other factors.
- Page last reviewed: December 29, 2015
- Page last updated: December 29, 2015
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