Cancer Basics

Cancer cells are cells that have lost control of their ability to divide in a regulated fashion. The word tumor, which from Latin translates to swelling, is used to describe a population of these rapidly growing and dividing cancer cells.

When normal cells are damaged beyond repair, they are eliminated by apoptosis. Cancer cells avoid apoptosis and continue to multiply in an unregulated manner.


We are all familiar with warnings such as these:.

 This is because exposure to these carcinogens, which include ultraviolet radiation, cigarette smoke, asbestos, etc., can result in damage to your cells DNA. Ultimately, cancer pathology is due to the accumulation of DNA mutations that inhibit expression of tumor suppressor genes or increase the expression of genes that drive the cell cycle (proto-oncogenes).



In order for cells to start dividing uncontrollably, genes which regulate cell growth must somehow be affected.

These changes in DNA expression can also be brought about by chromosomal translocations (as is the case with the Philadelphia chromosome) or by viral infection (through, for example, expression of viral oncogenes in an infected animal host). Some examples of viruses known to cause cancer in their human or animal hosts include HPVhuman papilloma virus, FLVFeline Leukemia Virus, and RSVRous Sarcoma Virus.

    above image courtesy of http://www.cancertas.org.au/pages/cancerinformation.php


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Updated: May 12, 2008