Causes of Cancer

Cancer is a class of disease characterized by out-of-control cell growth. With more than 200 different types of cancer, one can develop it in virtually any organ of the body. Research states that there are more than 60 different organs in the body where cancer can develop.

Development of Cancer

Typically, one form of cancer will develop in certain areas of the body. However, since cancer can develop from almost any type of cell, it is also possible that more than one type of cancer can develop in any one part of the body.  For example, one can develop pleural mesothelioma or pericardial mesothelioma, two different types of cancer, even though they both form in, and around, cardiac muscles.

Ultimately, cancer is the result of cells that grow uncontrollably and do not die. Whereas normal cells in the body go through life stages of growth, division and death, cancer cells do not complete this cycle. Programmed cell death is called apoptosis, and when this process begins to weaken, cancer can form. Since cancer cells do not die, they continue to grow and divide, causing a mass of abnormal cells to develop, eventually causing cancer.

Causes

Cancer is a complex group of diseases with numerous causes. Genetic factors, smoking, diet and physical activity, certain infections and exposure to different types of chemicals and radiation, such as asbestos, are all linked to the development of cancer.

In this section, one can learn more about the known causes of cancer and educate themselves on how to better prevent this disease from developing in themselves or their loved ones.

Genetics: Some types of cancer are known to run in certain families’ histories. Cancers with a hereditary component (though not in all cases) include breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers.  However, most cancers are not linked to inherited factors, but rather to DNA damage incurred during the patient’s lifetime.

Tobacco: The American Cancer Society estimates that tobacco is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S.  Use of tobacco accounts for at least 87% of lung cancer deaths and 30% of all cancer deaths.  Though these numbers are dire, smokers who quit greatly decrease their risk of getting cancer.

Diet and Physical Activity: Next to quitting smoking, the best way to avoid cancer is to eat a nutritious diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise on a regular basis.  Being overweight or obese is associated with cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, and others, as well as non-cancer conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Sun and UV Exposure: The most common type of cancer, accounting for nearly half of the incidents of cancer diagnosed in the U.S., is skin cancer.  Melanoma, though treatable if detected early, is the deadliest type.  However, the risk of all types of skin cancer is greatly increased through unprotected exposure to UV radiation.

Other Carcinogens: A carcinogen is any substance that causes cancer.  The American Cancer Society lists a variety of carcinogenic substances that include radioactive material, viruses, chemicals, and minerals such as asbestos.

References:

American Cancer Society
Cancer Help UK