Cancer is undoubtedly on the rise. Do you know what you need to do to avoid becoming an alarming statistic?
What is cancer?
There are more than 200 types of cancer. Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases which occur when cells become damaged and get out of control.
Cancer can start almost anywhere in the body, which is made up of trillions of cells. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to “rebel” and stop following the rules of healthy cells.
Healthy cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. Usually, the body has the appropriate number of each type of cell. The body produces signals to control how much and how often cells divide. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die with a process called apoptosis and new cells take their place.
When cancer develops, however, this orderly process breaks down. Changes in the genetic code (DNA) of cells make them grow out of control. Cells with damaged DNA have the ability to escape apoptosis and survive. These cells then start dividing without stopping and may eventually form a tumor.
Picture obtained from: http://www.healthykarnataka.org/operational-guidelines/cancer-cervix/overview-of-cervical-carcinoma
In this figure, the division of normal cells is compared to the division of cells with damaged and uncontrolled DNA. This eventually leads to cancer initiation.
Many cancers form solid tumors, which are masses of tissue. Cancers of the blood, such as leukemia, generally do not form solid tumors.
Cancerous tumors are malignant, which means they can spread into or invade other tissues. They break off and travel to distant places in the body through the blood or the lymph system, where they form new tumors far from the original tumor.
Unlike malignant tumors, benign tumors do not spread into or invade other tissues. Benign tumors can sometimes be quite large, however. When removed, they usually don’t grow back, whereas malignant tumors sometimes do. Unlike most benign tumors elsewhere in the body, benign brain tumors can be life threatening.
A significant factor that allows the survival of cancerous cells is their ability to form new blood vessels, known as angiogenesis. Angiogenesis allows them to have their own supply of oxygen and nutrients necessary for their growth.
Most cancers are preventable
The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30-70% of cancers are preventable. Data from other official sources like the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), estimate that eating a healthful diet, being active and maintaining a healthful weight can prevent as many as 35-40% of cancers.
The AICR suggests diet, weight and physical activity as the 3 cornerstones of cancer prevention and advises people: