Causes of Cancer -Prevention


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Although cancer affects people of all ages, the risk of developing most types of cancer increases with age. Cancer is often perceived as a disease that strikes for no apparent reason because there are many unproven theories. Scientists don’t know all of the causes of cancer however, many have been identified. Besides heredity, which only accounts for approximately 10% of all cancer cases, scientific studies point to three main categories of factors that contribute the development of cancer: chemicals (e.g., from smoking, diet, inhalation…), radiation (e.g., x-rays, ultraviolet, radioactive chemicals…), and viruses or bacteria (e.g., Human Papillomavirus, Epstein Barr Virus, hepatitis B…)


Causes of Cancer Cancer Exercise Training Institute Chemicals and radiation that are capable of causing cancer are known as “carcinogens.” Carcinogens initiate a series of genetic alterations or mutations and encourage cell proliferation. This usually doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes several decades can pass between exposure to a carcinogen and the onset of cancer. Since exposure to carcinogens is responsible for triggering most cancers, we can reduce our risk by taking steps to avoid such agents whenever possible. The use of tobacco products has been implicated in one out of every three cancer deaths. In spite of the Surgeon Generals’ repeated warnings, as well as the fact that smoking is the largest single cause of death from cancer, the tobacco industry continues to thrive. Avoiding tobacco products, cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco, is the single most effective lifestyle decision you can make in an effort to prevent cancer.

Although it is usually not life-threatening, skin cancer caused by exposure to sunlight is the most frequently observed type of cancer. Most of us don’t take skin cancer very seriously because it is often easy to cure. Melanoma, a more serious form of skin cancer also associated with sun exposure, is potentially lethal. Once again, we choose to ignore the repeated and ever-present warnings to stay out of the sun, and continue to bask in the suns’ glory for hours on end. Risk of skin cancer can be greatly reduced by wearing clothing to shield the skin from ultraviolet radiation, wearing protective sunscreen, or by avoiding direct sun exposure altogether.

Actions can also be taken to avoid exposure to some of the viruses that are associated with cancers. The most common of which is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is involved in the transmission of cervical cancer. “Safe sex,” including limiting exposure to multiple sex partners, is the best way to prevent this virus which is sexually transmitted. Many carcinogens have become “occupational” hazards to those who come in contact with them on a regular basis. These include arsenic, asbestos, benzene, chromium, leather dust, naphthylamine, radon, soots, tars, oils, vinyl chloride, and wood dust. Workers who are exposed to these chemicals have a higher incidence of cancer. Although a persons’ chance of developing cancer at some point in his/her lifetime is almost twice as great today as it was fifty years ago, cancer is still not considered an epidemic. The increase in identifiable cancer cases is due largely in part to increased life span because cancer is more prevalent among older people.

Obesity (being extremely overweight) raises the risk of type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. There are approximately 40,000 cancer diagnoses in the U.S. each year are caused by obesity. In addition, being overweight and obesity cause 15% to 20% of all cancer-related deaths each year. Several studies have explored why being overweight or obese may increase cancer risk and growth. People who are obese have more fat tissue, which can produce hormones, such as insulin or estrogen, and may cause cancer cells to grow. How much a person weighs throughout various points in his or her life may also affect the risk for cancer.

Research has shown that the following are modestly associated with an increased risk:

• High birth weight

• Weight gain during adulthood

• Gaining and losing weight repeatedly

Cancer cells come in all different shapes and sizes, and are classified by their aggressiveness and from the tissue where they originate. Cancer cells that essentially resemble their non-cancerous counterparts and can still perform some of their normal functions are described as well differentiated. On the flip side, the cells that are identified by their disorganized structure and their ability to divide rapidly and chaotically are known as poorly differentiated cells. A tumor that remains confined to its’ original, or primary location, is referred to as localized. There are two ways that a cancer can spread; it can grow straight through the primary organ and directly into adjacent tissue (referred to as a local extension or regional disease), or in metastatic cancer, a colony of malignant cells can break away and ride the circulatory system to nearby lymph nodes or a distant organ where it forms a secondary cancer. Sometimes, despite batteries of tests, a metastatic tumor is diagnosed, but no primary tumor is found. When this happens, the cancer is declared a cancer of unknown primary origin.


Over 200 hereditary cancer susceptibility syndromes have been identified, although heredity only accounts for about 5-10% of all cancers, in those cases the cancer is caused by an abnormal gene that is being passed along from generation to generation. This takes place when an abnormal gene that can lead to cancer is inherited. Genes are pieces of DNA. They contain the instructions on how to make the proteins the body needs to function, when to destroy damaged cells, and how to keep your body’s cellular composition in balance. They control everything that makes you YOU and they can also affect your risk of getting cancer.

When there is an abnormal change in a gene it’s called gene mutation. The 2 types of mutations are inherited and acquired (somatic).

• An inherited gene mutation is one that is transmitted through genes that have been passed from parents to their offspring

• Acquired (somatic) mutations are changes in DNA that develop throughout a person’s lifetime

We are born with two copies of most genes – one from our mom and one from our dad. When we inherit an abnormal copy of a gene, our cells already start out with one mutation. If the other copy of the gene stops working (because of an acquired mutation, for example), the gene can stop functioning altogether. When the gene that stops working is a cancer susceptibility gene, cancer may develop. Some cancer susceptibility genes function as tumor suppressor genes (normal genes that slow down cell division, repair DNA mistakes, or tell cells when to die – a process known as apoptosis or programmed cell death). When tumor suppressor genes don’t work properly, cells can grow out of control, which can lead to cancer. Many family cancer syndromes are caused by inherited defects of tumor suppressor genes. Cancers that are caused by inherited genes tend to occur earlier in life than those that are acquired. When many people in one family have cancer, the assumption is that it is inherited, however, it is more likely that it is due to chance or exposure to a common toxin. Less often, these cancers may be caused by an inherited gene mutation causing a family cancer syndrome.

The following list (provided by the American Cancer Society) is cancers that are more likely to occur from an inherited gene:

• Many cases of an uncommon or rare type of cancer

• Cancers occurring at younger ages than usual

• More than one type of cancer in a single person (like a woman with both breast and ovarian cancer)

• Cancers occurring in both of a pair of organs (both eyes, both kidneys, both breasts)

• More than one childhood cancer in a set of siblings (like sarcoma in both a brother and a sister)

• Cancer occurring in the sex not usually affected (like breast cancer in a man)

Cancer in a parent, brother, or sister, is more cause for concern than cancer in a more distant relative. Even if a gene mutation is present, the chance of you getting it gets lower with more distant relatives. Having two relatives with cancer is more concerning if the people are related to each other. For example, if both relatives are your father’s sisters it carries more weight than if one was your father’s sister and the other was your mother’s sister.

Having several different kinds of cancer among family members is not as concerning as many family members having the same type of cancer. There are, however, some family cancer syndromes, in which a few types of cancer seem to go hand-in-hand (breast cancer and ovarian cancer run together in families with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, colon and endometrial cancers tend to go together in a syndrome called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer – Lynch syndrome).

The age at which someone is diagnosed is also important. For example, colon cancer is rare in people under thirty. Having two or more cases in close relatives under thirty years of age could be a sign of an inherited cancer syndrome. On the other hand, breast cancer is very common in menopausal women, so if both your mother and her sister were found to have breast cancer when they were in their 50s, it is less likely to be due to an inherited gene change.


The following is a list of things that cause oxidative stress and increase your risk of getting cancer, therefore, respected as causes of cancer.  Minimizing the percentage of factors causing oxidative stress can help you to become healthier and minimize your risk of cancer.

  • Toxic chemical compounds and pollutants in your body
  • Hydrogenated fats
  • All kinds of pollution , including air, water, and food
  • Oils that have been heated to very high temperatures
  • Cigarette smoke, directly inhaled or secondhand
  • Dehydration
  • Too much sugar
  • Too much animal protein in your diet
  • Geophysical stress like living near power lines or waste dumps
  • Microbial imbalance, including bacterial, fungal and viral infections
  • Preservatives in your food
  • Drugs (over the counter and prescription)
  • Artificial food colorings and flavorings
  • Plastics
  • Chemical cleaning supplies
  • Chlorinated water that you drink, shower in or swim in
  • Alcohol
  • Pesticides in your food
  • Radiation exposure
  • Psychological and emotional stress


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