How Can You Get Cancer?

Reviewed on 4/14/2021

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. It refers to uncontrolled growth of the cells that results in overgrowth of the organ it affects along with a tendency to spread to nearby and distant sites in the body.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. It refers to uncontrolled growth of the cells that results in overgrowth of the organ it affects along with a tendency to spread to nearby and distant sites in the body.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. It refers to uncontrolled growth of the cells that results in overgrowth of the organ it affects along with a tendency to spread to nearby and distant sites in the body.

You can get cancer by mutations in the gene. These genes are components of the DNA. The DNA, through its genes, plays a vital role in instructing the cells when to divide, multiply or grow, and die. Mutations in the DNA cause this process to malfunction, which in turn can cause the cells to grow uncontrollably.

Impact of gene mutation: A gene mutation affects a normal (healthy) cell by

  • Allowing rapid growth of the cell.
  • Failure to stop uncontrolled cell growth.

Gene mutation causes: You can get gene mutations

  • By birth: You can inherit genetic mutations from your parents. However, very few genetic mutations present by birth can cause cancer.
  • After birth: This type of genetic mutation is something that you acquire because of activities such as smoking, unhealthy dietary practices, alcohol abuse, and physical inactivity. You can also develop the mutation due to radiation, viruses, carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), obesity, and hormones.

Genetic mutation is a frequent thing that happens in the cells, and the cells most often correct it. They have an inbuilt mechanism that helps them recognize this error and repair it. When this repair mechanism does not work, the mutation might remain as it is and cause cancer. However, not every genetic mutation leads to cancer.

Doctors are not clear about how many mutations are needed to cause cancer. This is likely to depend upon the cancer type.

What increases your risk of cancer?

Most people diagnosed with cancer do not have the recognized factors that increase their risk of cancer. For others, the recognized risk factors include:

  • Age: Cancer can happen at any age. However, because of the slow-growing nature of most cancers, your risk increases with age. It is most commonly found in people who are 65 years or older.
  • Family history: A family history of cancer can put you at an increased risk of cancer. However, this is a rare risk factor for cancer. If you are concerned about your positive family history of cancer, you can ask your doctor if you can take benefit of the screening tests, including genetic testing.
  • Lifestyle: Habits such as tobacco use in the form of cigarette smoking or chewing tobacco highly increase your risk of almost all types of cancer. Drinking excessive alcohol frequently at a time is also a risk factor. Having unprotected sex, multiple sexual partners, and frequent, long-term exposure to the sun (ultraviolet [UV] light) may also increase the risk of certain cancer. Being overweight, particularly obese, lack of physical activity, and inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables are known factors that increase your odds of cancer.
  • Health conditions and treatments: Certain pre-existing diseases can make you more likely to develop cancer. This typically varies among different types of cancer. For example, a condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease makes you more likely to get esophageal cancer. A disease of the intestine such as ulcerative colitis increases your risk of colon cancer. A radiation therapy taken for previous cancer can also cause second cancer (other types of cancer) to develop.
  • Environment: Exposure to tobacco smoke from secondhand smoking puts you at a similar risk of cancer as firsthand smoking. Working in places where you are constantly in contact with carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) also makes you more likely to get cancer.

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References
Cancer. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20370588#:

What Causes Cancer? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes.html

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