What Causes Cancer?

Cancer is a disease that starts when cells in the body start to grow and multiply out of control. There are over 100 different types of cancer that can affect almost every organ and tissue in the body. But all cancers have one thing in common – abnormal cells that grow and divide without control.

There are lots of things that can cause cancer, but the way it usually starts is when genes get mutated. Genes are the coded instructions inside each cell that tell it how to work and what kind of protein to make. Normally, when a cell makes copies of itself (reproduces), the genes keep their original information. But sometimes the genes can get messed up and become damaged or lost. There have to be about six mutations before a normal cell becomes a cancer cell.

Some cancers can be inherited from our parents or from the environment we live in, but most aren’t. Mutations can also happen during normal cell growth or because of a physical or chemical exposure to something that can change the DNA in a cell. Chemicals that damage DNA and cause mutations are called carcinogens. Some common carcinogens include tobacco smoke, radiation and some chemicals found in plastics, weedkillers and home products. Age also increases your chance of getting cancer, because the longer we live, the more chances there are for genetic changes to occur in our cells.

In some cancers, the abnormal cells grow into a mass of cancerous tissue called a tumor. The tumor can put pressure on nerves and cause pain and weakness in that area of the body. It can also spread into nearby tissues or even to distant parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymphatic system. When this happens, it’s called metastasis.

Some of the most common cancers are breast, lung and colon cancer. But cancer can happen in any organ or tissue in the body and can affect people of all ages.

The good news is that cancer can often be treated by removing the abnormal cells or killing them with chemotherapy or other drugs. But the most important thing you can do is to be aware of any unusual symptoms and visit your doctor right away. Early detection is the best way to prevent or treat cancer.