How Does Cancer Develop?

The development of cancer is a complex process that is triggered by various causes. Find out more about this topic today.

How does cancer develop?

The term “cancer” describes a group of diseases that are characterized by the rapid and uncontrolled growth of body cells. But how does cancer actually develop? Have you already asked yourself this question?

A tumor usually arises from damage to the genetic material or from errors in reading the genetic information, which is translated into proteins. The causes of these changes can be genetic or spontaneous. Certain substances can promote or inhibit the uncontrolled reproduction of cancer cells. 

How does cancer develop?

A tumor occurs when the genetic information in the DNA of a cell changes due to external or internal factors and can no longer perform its functions. The cell multiplies in an uncontrolled manner, penetrates healthy tissue, displaces it and destroys it. It is a genetic disease.

Genes contain the blueprints of all proteins that are involved in important body functions. It is important to differentiate between proto-oncogenes and suppressor genes. 

  • Proto-oncogenes are “normal” genes in the cell, which stimulate cell division as a vital function. For example, they enable the baby to develop during pregnancy and scarring of wounds. However, proto-oncogenes can become oncogenes through a mutation.
  • Suppressor genes  suppress the uncontrolled division of genomically damaged cells. So they prevent the formation of tumors.

Tumor genetics

Any change in the balance of the functions of the proto-oncogenes and the suppressor genes leads to an irregularity in the cell control system.

This imbalance can lead to increased production of a protein that is responsible for cell growth. As a result, it can simultaneously cause an abnormal increase in a certain type of cell.

However, it can also lead to the increased production of proteins with abnormal properties. As a result, cell damage cannot be repaired and certain organs become sick. 

Cancer cells

Risk factors

Since cancer is a multifactorial disease, there are many different aspects to consider. But scientists have been able to determine certain factors that increase the likelihood of developing cancer. Risk factors are defined by the World Health Organization as follows:

Risk factors include chemical products and certain habits and activities. Family history (of immediate relatives with cancer) is also usually an important factor influencing inherited cancers.

How does cancer develop?

A gene mutation that can cause cancer can occur for the following reasons, for example:

  • Dealing with carcinogenic substances
  • Spontaneous gene mutations during cell growth
  • Inheritable gene mutations

The first items on this list can also be referred to as sporadic forms of cancer. These types of cancer are characterized by a peculiarity: 80% of the genetic changes that are responsible for them depend on environmental risk factors (infections, radiation, chemicals).

Diagnosis cancer

Familial cancer

If the cancer is due to a congenital genetic predisposition, it is called familial cancer. People with a high family risk should therefore go to early cancer detection regularly. 

However, it must be taken into account that cancer is a widespread disease. The fact that several family members suffer from it does not automatically mean  that it is a congenital disease. It is also possible that there are common risk factors. For example, several family members may be heavy smokers and the rest of the family may be passive smokers.

Familial cancer can be present in the following cases:

  • More than one family member has the same type of cancer.
  • The cancer occurs very early (breast cancer in a 20 year old woman).
  • A person will develop several types of cancer (for example, a woman has breast cancer and ovarian cancer).
  • Both organs are affected (both breasts, ovaries or kidneys).
  • The cancer occurs over several generations.

How does cancer develop? Closing remark

The term cancer describes a number of diseases that have one common characteristic: The rapid and uncontrolled growth of malignant body cells. This can be related to environmental factors, lifestyle or previous illnesses within the family.

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