We have learned that cancer is a collection of diseases that arise due to uncontrolled cell multiplication. In adults, cell multiplication is a highly controlled process that occurs mostly to replenish cells that die due to normal wear and tear or damage from external factors. If the processes that control normal cell multiplication and lifespan go awry, cells start multiplying uncontrollably, fail to die when they should, and begin to accumulate.
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In body organs and tissues, the accumulating cells form masses called tumors, whereas in the blood or bone marrow they crowd out normal cells. Over time, some cancer cells invade local and distant tissues, a process termed metastasis, by entering the bloodstream or lymphatic network, and form secondary tumors at remote sites. Most deaths from cancer are due to metastasis. The normal behavior of each cell in the human body is controlled by its genetic material.
The order of the DNA units as well as its three-dimensional structure dictates which protein and how much of it is made by each cell.
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Alterations in the DNA sequence, referred to as mutations, can disrupt normal protein function, and are the leading cause of cancer development see sidebar on Genetic Mutations. The number of cells within a growing tumor that carry a given mutation depends on when the mutation was acquired during tumor growth.
Thus, even within the same tumor, different cancer cells often have different genetic mutations. This variation, or heterogeneity, within a tumor or between a primary and metastatic tumor, is a leading cause of resistance to treatment and thereby disease progression. Ongoing research continues to uncover the mutational landscape of specific cancer types Not all mutations acquired by a cell lead to cancer. In fact, the identity of mutations and the order and speed at which a cell acquires them determine whether a cancer will develop and, if a cancer does develop, the length of time it takes to happen.
If you need help quitting tobacco, ask your doctor about stop-smoking products and other strategies for quitting. Although making healthy selections at the grocery store and at mealtime can't guarantee cancer prevention, it might reduce your risk.
Peto’s Paradox: how has evolution solved the problem of cancer prevention?
Consider these guidelines:. In addition, women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts might have a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. People who follow the Mediterranean diet choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, over butter and fish instead of red meat. Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney.
Physical activity counts, too. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own might lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. Adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. But for substantial health benefits, strive to get at least minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
As a general goal, include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine — and if you can do more, even better.
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Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer — and one of the most preventable. Try these tips:. Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections. Talk to your doctor about vaccination against:. Another effective cancer prevention tactic is to avoid risky behaviors that can lead to infections that, in turn, might increase the risk of cancer. For example:. Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers — such as cancer of the skin, colon, cervix and breast — can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, when treatment is most likely to be successful.
Ask your doctor about the best cancer screening schedule for you.
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