Understanding What Cancer Is


What Is Cancer? Everything You Need to Know

Cancer Cells or Lymphocytes

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer in 2018.

The most common types of cancer are breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, melanoma, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer.

We all know a little bit about cancer, and we’ve been affected by it in some way. However, cancer is pretty complicated. So, what is cancer exactly? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Cancer?

The National Cancer Institute defines cancer as “the name given to a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues.”

Typically, our cells divide and form new cells when we need them. When our cells become old and damaged, they die, and then the new cells take their place. When cancer occurs, this system becomes broken. The cells Also abnormal, the damaged cells survive when they should have died, and cells divide when they do not need to. Tumors form when cells divide without stopping.

What Causes Cancer?

There are a variety of risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing cancer. However, most of the time cancer occurs in people identifiable any known risk factors.

According to the Cancer Society of Finland, cancer risk factors can be divided into four main groups:

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  1. Biological or internal factors, such as age, gender, skin type, and inherited factors.
  2. Environmental exposure, such as fine particulate matter and radon and UV exposure.
  3. Occupational risk factors, such as exposure to radioactive material and asbestos.
  4. Lifestyle factors.

Lifestyle factors may include the following:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol intake
  • Excess sunlight exposure
  • Food-related factors, such as nitrates and barbecuing food

Occupational risk factors, as well as potential exposures in the home, include:

  • Asbestos
  • Tar and pitch
  • Certain metals
  • Polynuclear hydrocarbons (i.e., benzopyrene)
  • Some plastic chemicals (i.e., Vinyl chloride)

Also, certain bacteria and viruses may increase the risk of cancer; some of these include:

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori, causes gastritis)
  • HBV, HCV (two hepatitis viruses)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

Certain drugs may increase the risk of cancer; some of these include:

  • Certain hormones
  • Medications that cause immune deficiency
  • Certain antineoplastic medications

Also, radiation can cause cancer. Examples include ionizing radiation such as X-rays and soil radon and non-ionizing radiation, such as the sun.

Next page: How does cancer start? How does cancer spread? And more answers to “what is cancer?”

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