Cause — or Risk Factor: What’s the Difference?

We often see statements or articles about disease causes and risk factors. What’s the difference between a cause of illness and a disease risk factor? When we study cures the difference is clear and dramatic.


A cause causes an illness. A cause is that which, when addressed, leads to a cure. A cause of illness only exists when an actual illness exists.

Risk Factor:

Risk factors are everywhere and do not require illnesses to exist. A risk factor is something that increases the statistical risk of disease. When a risk factor is addressed, the statistical risk of a disease is reduced, but it does not cure any illness, nor even prevent a cause from causing an illness.

Illness or Disease?

Maybe you noticed, maybe not, that causes are linked to illnesses and risk factors are linked to diseases. What’s the difference? Why is there a difference?

Three: Types of Causes, Illness, Cures

There are three basic types of illnesses, requiring three different types of cures.


All cures can be viewed as improvements in healthiness. Process cures, transformational cures, and healing cures work faster and function better when the patient is healthier, slower and not so well when the patient is less healthy.

Risk Factors to Causes

Before the illness exists, a cause is often a risk factor. Risk factors are commonplace and rarely cause illness. For example, overeating doesn’t cause obesity until it has occurred consistently over a very long time period. Few cancers are caused by overeating, but overeating is a risk factor for cancer. Tripping might cause an injury — a sprain or even a broken leg, but we can trip many times without injury. We might lose or quit many jobs without causing any depression.

Causal Chains

“This world and yonder world are incessantly giving birth: Every cause is a mother, its effect the child. When the effect is born, it too becomes a cause and gives birth to wondrous effects. These causes are generation on generation, but it needs a very well lighted eye to see the links in their chain.” — RUMI

Risks Factors are Additive

Risk factors are not chains, because they don’t actually cause specific illnesses, they only move us closer to illness. Risk factors add up. When we are exposed to many risk factors, our likelihood of disease increases.

Analysis and Reporting of Causes and Risk Factors

There are many complications in how causes of illness and risk factors of illness are reported, which make understanding difficult.

Author: A Theory of Cure, The Elements of Cure, Author: Healthicine, the Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness

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