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The cause of cancer
Cancer is a class of diseases in which a cell, or a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (division beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood). These three malignant properties of cancers differentiate them from benign tumors, which are self-limited, and do not invade or metastasize. Most cancers form a tumor but some, like leukemia, do not. The branch of medicine concerned with the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer is oncology.
Cancer is not a single disease. It is a group of more
than hundred different and distinctive diseases. It is not
contagious. Cancer can involve any tissue of the body
and have many different forms in each body area. Most
cancers are named for the type of cell or organ in which
they start. If a cancer spreads (metastasizes), the new
tumor bears the same name as the original(primary)
Cancer is the Latin word for crab. The ancients used
the word to mean a malignancy, doubtless because of
the crab-like tenacity a malignant tumor sometimes
seems to show in grasping the tissues it invades.
Cancer may also be called malignancy, a malignant
tumor, or a neoplasm (literally, a new growth).
Cancer results from mutations of certain genes that
allow the cells to begin their uncontrolled growth. These
mutations are either inherited or acquired. Acquired
mutations are caused by repeated insults from triggers
(e.g., cigarette smoke or ultraviolet rays) referred to as
carcinogens. There is usually a latency period of years
or decades between exposure to a carcinogen and the
appearance of cancer.
There are many causes of cancers, including:
Benzene and other chemicals
Certain poisonous mushrooms and a type of poison that can grow on peanut plants (aflatoxins)
However, the cause of many cancers remains unknown.
Certain carcinogens present occupational hazards. For
example, in the asbestos industry, workers have a high
probability of developing lung and colon cancer or a
particularly virulent cancer of the mesothelium (the
lining of the chest and abdomen).>
Risk to humans from carcinogens depends upon the
dose and a person's biologic susceptibility. Factors
influencing a person's biological susceptibility to cancer
include age, sex, immune status, nutritional status,
genetics, and ethnicity.
Unlike benign tumors, malignant tumors consist of undifferentiated, or unspecialized, cells that show an atypical cell structure and do not function like the normal cells from the organ from which they derive. Cancer cells, unlike normal
cells, lack contact inhibition; cancer cells growing in
laboratory tissue culture do not stop growing when they
touch each other on a glass or other solid surface but
grow in masses several layers deep.